CINCINNATI -- The Padres are undoubtedly pleased with the progress they've made over the past two months. Following their woeful 15-30 start, they've been above .500 since.
But they're also well aware that there's another important hurdle left to clear. Most of that recent success has come while they've avoided the teams who have caused them -- and the rest of the league -- the most trouble.
That changes this weekend, when the Padres head to Los Angeles for a three-game set with the rival Dodgers. Twenty-seven of their final 48 contests are against the Dodgers, Nationals, D-backs and Rockies -- record-wise, the four best teams in the National League.
Suffice it to say, the Padres have struggled against those clubs. They're 11-26 in those games, while going 39-35 against the rest of the Majors.
"I don't think any other team is going to play 64 games against the best four teams in the National League," said Padres manager Andy Green. "It's good for us. It's good for us to learn where we are. It's good for us to learn what we need to work on. It's good for us to see how high the bar actually is to be a playoff team and not just a .500 team. You welcome those things.
"The season started with us playing those guys repetitively, and we got to a 15-30 record. Then we got away from those teams, and we've handled the rest of the league fairly well. Now, it's a challenge for us to come back to those teams and play them more competitively."
To their credit, the Padres seem to be embracing that challenge.
"We're going to play a lot of good teams coming up," said Padres first baseman Wil Myers. "It's another thing that we want to prove -- that we can play with these guys. That's going to really push us."
Said right fielder Hunter Renfroe: "Those teams are good for a reason. But we've held our own really well as a growing team, and I think we've come together. We've been playing really good baseball. We've got to keep that going, bring that momentum into next year."
It starts Friday night with the Dodgers, the team that sent the Padres on their early-season spiral. San Diego lost three of four in Los Angeles during the season's opening week, then two more at Petco Park in early May. In those games, the Padres were outscored 45-14.
"You look at our team, it's different from Opening Day," Myers said. "You look at a lot of guys who have come in here, stepped up, come to play with something to prove. ... A lot of these guys are eager to be on that stage, myself included. We're going into L.A. to face the best team in baseball, on possibly the biggest stage in baseball. So we're going out there to try to prove something."
Myers also noted the possibility that the Padres could play spoiler in the NL Wild Card race with 13 games in September against the D-backs and Rockies -- the two clubs currently atop those standings.
Renfroe, meanwhile, wasn't as interested in playing spoiler as he was about the litmus test of playing against elite competition.
"Those teams are playing great baseball," Renfroe said. "You want that. You want to compete at the highest level, where you've got to bring your 'A' game to every game."
AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.