James Loney sits against left-hander Clayton Richard

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It was only a matter of when.

James Loney has actually begun to pick up the pace with the bat this week, including a four-hit game on Tuesday, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has benched him with the Padres sending left-hander Clayton Richard to the hill tonight.

Jerry Sands, who was called up from Triple-A Albuquerque early last week, will make his first major league start at first base tonight while Marcus Thames will start in left field. Thames hasn’t started a game since April 13 due to a quad injury, but we could see this lineup more often against left-handers if he’s truly healthy.

Loney has a .255 batting average and a .684 OPS against left-handed pitching during his career compared to a .294 batting average and an .802 OPS against righties.