The Dodgers and Padres have developed one of baseballs most heated rivalries over the past few years, particularly since San Diego suddenly morphed to become a contender in 2020 in an attempt to halt Los Angeless National League West supremacy. But the on-field results have not matched the compelling story line surrounding these Southern California nemeses.San Diego has won exactly one-third of its 48 regular-season matchups against Los Angeles over the past three years and was swept in the NL Division Series in its lone postseason matchup against the eventual World Series champions in 2020. In fact, the Padres havent won a season series against the deep-pocketed Dodgers since 10and this years team may be the best edition yet of the dragon up the freeway.So how could the Friars have a chance against the Dodgers in this best-of-five NLDS, which they go into without their top three starting pitchers after using them in their wild-card round victory against the Mets?San Diego went 5-14 against the Dodgers this season.Orlando Ramirez/USA TODAY SportsWell, theyre certainly still the underdogs in this matchup, but there are a few different variables this time around. Here are three x-factors that should decide this series.Can the Padres muster more against L.A.s elite trio of lefty starters?In 10 matchups this season against NL ERA championJulio Úrias, future Hall of FamerClayton Kershawand successful reclamation projectTyler Anderson, San Diego never scored more than two runs against each southpaw. Overall, the trio combined for a 1.50 ERA against the Padres in 60 inningsutter domination over a fairly large sample size. And those statistics have not improved since the Padres deadline shopping spree: San Diego happened to face Úrias three times in September and managed only three runs against him in 19 innings. The underlying stats have not been quite as dire for the Friars, with 45 strikeouts and 18 walks giving them a sliver of hope that some better batted-ball luck will bring better results. But they also averaged one home run every 15 innings against the trio, which doesnt bode well in a modern playoff environment where the long ball is often the key to success.San Diego hasnt hit against lefties especially well this season https://www.padresplayersshop.com/286-phil_nevin_jersey, with its 103 wRC+ vs. LHPs ranking 15th in MLB and the second-worst among the eight remaining playoff teams . While the Padres shouldnt feel intimidated by the Dodgers rotation after getting through the Mets superior top three, it seems likely theyll miss the services of suspended superstarFernando Tatis Jr.more this round. Obviously, this would be a good time forJuan Sototo look more like he did with the Nationals, but with Soto sporting a career-worst .701 OPS against lefties this year, its more likely one of San Diegos two other midseason offensive acquisitionscomes through with a big hit in the early innings.Watch MLB games live with fuboTV: Start a free trial today!Can Blake Snell provide some length?The Padres acquired Snell from the Rays as part of a 4-for-1 player trade in December of 2020.Brad Penner/USA TODAY SportsPerhaps no active pitcher has seen his ability to pitch deep into a game more scrutinized thanSnell, the lone lefty expected to start for San Diego in this series . While with the Rays, Snell was famously pulled from a start against the Dodgersas part of Tampa Bays strategy to minimize his time facing opposing hitters for a third timein the decisive Game 6 of the 2020 World Series, despite shutting out Los Angeles with nine strikeouts through 5⅓ innings. The Rays went on to blow their 10 lead just two batters after Snells reluctant exit, and a narrative was born. Its one thats a tad unfair in an era when Tampa Bays handling of Snell is hardly uniqueindeed, San Diego hasnt stretched Snell much further in his two years with the clubthough it certainly comes off as a cautious approach for a former Cy Young winner whos in his physical prime Sean Manaea Jersey.Snell is not afraid to waste pitches trying to get hitters to chase while ahead in the count, so hes probably never going to be seen as the modern version of a workhorse . Hes yet to see the sixth inning in any of his three outings against the Dodgers this season and has done so just three times in 11 career starts against them, including the postseason . Hes also only earned a win against the Dodgers onceand has been tagged with a lossonlyonce Johnny Grubb Jersey, as hes often done for the day by the time the deciding run is scored.The Dodgers are MLBs best hitting team against right-handed pitchers , so its crucial for San Diego to take advantage of Snells time on the mound.Hell likely take the bump for Game 3 on an extra day of rest at the beginning of what could be a stretch of three games in three days, if the series goes the distance. The 29-year-old lastedonly3⅓ inningstied for his shortest start both this season and in his postseason careeron Saturday against the Mets while handing out six free passes in San Diegos lone loss of the wild-card round. If the Padres are to pull off an upset and advance to the NLCS https://www.padresplayersshop.com/510-mike_clevinger_jersey, its imperative for Snell to eat some innings and leave with a lead. And if he can exorcise some demons and last at least six strong against the Dodgers, nearly two years after he was lifted in the sixth against them with disastrous results, even better.How will Los Angeles handle the late innings?Twelve different pitchers recorded a save for Los Angeles this year, and thats not counting key bullpen arms in Phil BickfordandCaleb Ferguson, former closerBlake Treinenand a potential hybrid weapon inDustin May. As of Tuesday morning, its yet to be determined whether Treinenand Mayare healthy enough to be activated for the NLDS roster. If bothare https://www.padresplayersshop.com/701-brandon_dixon_jersey, it seems likelyCraig Kimbrelwill be left off after losing the closers job in September.This is Bickfords first full season with the Dodgers; he played for Brewers from 2020 until he was selected off waivers by L.A. in May of 2021.Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY SportsAll of this is to say its anyones guess who will be called upon by manager Dave Roberts if Los Angeles holds a lead in the ninth, let alone how things will work out beforehand. The Dodgers relief corps has undoubtedly been a strength this season, with a 2.87 ERA that is behind only Houston. But there is an unusual amount of uncertainty regarding who will reside in L.A.s bullpen and what their roles will be, and how Roberts sorts out that situation will have a huge influence on whether the Dodgers advance to their sixth NLCS in seven years.