Following a lengthy up-and-down road trip, the National League East-leading Braves will gladly return home to Turner Field on Friday as they open a three-game series against the last-place Dodgers.
Just one week ago, this would have seemed like an entirely different matchup.
Yet with Atlanta dropping five of the final six games on its 10-game road trip and the Dodgers playing well in the wake of their eight-game losing streak, both clubs are suddenly trending in opposite directions.
The Braves started off strong on their trip, winning three of the first four games before sputtering out on the back end. On Friday, they will turn to starter Paul Maholm, who followed the same pattern as the rest of his team during that trip.
Maholm earned his fourth win of the season with an impressive performance at Cincinnati on May 6, but was battered around in San Francisco on Saturday. The southpaw was tagged for six runs on eight hits over just 4 1/3 innings while throwing a season-low 86 pitches before exiting the eventual 10-1 loss.
"Pauly usually goes through the lineup rather quickly with a limited amount of pitches," said Braves bench coach Carlos Tosca, who was filling in Saturday for Fredi Gonzalez while the skipper attended his daughter's high school graduation. "His pitch count was up a little bit with that amount of innings. He always competes. But he wasn't the Maholm we're used to knowing."
As for the Dodgers, they will counter with Hyun-Jin Ryu, who played a key role Saturday against Miami in helping the club snap its eight-game losing streak. The lefty conceded just one run over 6 2/3 innings, while throwing a career-high 114 pitches.
"He's a master craftsman, the way he changes speeds," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "He's fun to watch."
Ryu, signed out of Korea to a six-year, $36 million contract in December, has pitched at least six innings in each of his first eight Major League starts. He enters Friday's series opener with a 4-2 record to go along with a 3.40 ERA.
"Six or seven innings should be the norm for a starting pitcher," Ryu said. "That's what I considered even back in Korea."
Dodgers: Kemp streaking at the plate
Outfielder Matt Kemp didn't wait long to extend his hitting streak on Wednesday. He hit a first-inning double, which ran the streak to 14 games. He later added a single to finish the day 2-for-4.
Kemp is hitting .328 (19-for-58) during the stretch, though 16 of the hits are singles. For the season, he is hitting .282 with just one home run and 15 RBIs.
Braves: Heyward activated for opener
The Braves activated Jason Heyward from the disabled list and placed him in the starting lineup for Friday night's opener.
To create a roster spot for Heyward, the club placed right-handed reliever Jordan Walden on the 15-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation.
Heyward has been sidelined since undergoing an emergency appendectomy on April 22 in Denver.
• Maholm is 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA in nine career starts against the Dodgers.
Paul Casella is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.