Kershaw hopes Ethier’s hot stretch continues Tuesday night when the Dodgers try to take advantage of the punchless Brewers in the opener of a three-game series in Los Angeles.
Ethier has hit at least one homer in three consecutive games, matching the longest streak of his career and helping Los Angeles (11-14) to its first three-game winning streak of 2010. He hit two homers while driving in four runs in Sunday’s 9-3 win over Pittsburgh.
Ethier has gone 7 for 13 with four homers, nine RBIs and six runs during the winning streak. On the season, he ranks among baseball’s leaders in batting (.365), homers (9) and RBIs (26) after setting career highs with 31 homers and 106 RBIs in 2009.
“Ethier’s tough to pitch to. He’ll hurt you high and he’ll hurt you low,” manager Joe Torre said. “Right now he’s pretty much sitting back and very relaxed.”
Kershaw (1-1, 3.07 ERA) might not mind some offensive help after going 0-1 over his last three starts despite a 2.33 ERA. The Dodgers have given him three runs of support over 19 1-3 innings in that stretch.
The 22-year-old left-hander struggled early Thursday, giving up two runs in the first inning before settling in and yielding two hits in the next 5 1-3 of a 2-0 loss to Pittsburgh. The Dodgers managed only four hits - one from Ethier.
“Sometimes … it’s tough to settle in for me,” said Kershaw, who had seven strikeouts Thursday and is 1-1 with a 2.81 ERA in three starts against Milwaukee. “It’s just the game, you haven’t gotten in a rhythm yet, but … you have to channel your emotions.”
Kershaw may find that rhythm against the Brewers (10-15), who were outscored 21-2 while dropping three of four to San Diego. They were shut out in each of the three losses, including an 8-0 defeat Sunday in which they totaled three hits.
Milwaukee has lost eight of 10, hitting .211 and totaling 12 runs in those defeats.
“We’ve got some guys scuffling,” manager Ken Macha told the team’s official website. “When you’re struggling and the pitching is pretty good, it’s doubled up on you.”
Craig Counsell(notes) has been one of the few bright spots for Milwaukee. The veteran shortstop is hitting .406 in his last 11 games, going 8 for 23 during a seven-game hitting streak. He has a .163 average over his last 16 games at Dodger Stadium.
The left-hander, who will face Los Angeles for the first time, got off to a rough start in Wednesday’s 6-5, 14-inning loss to Pittsburgh. He surrendered three runs and four hits while serving up two homers in the first inning before allowing one hit over the next four and leaving with six strikeouts.
While the Brewers are trying to shake out of their offensive slump, the Dodgers are in position for their longest winning streak since a five-game run from July 18-22.
“We’re feeling a lot better about ourselves,” Torre told the team’s official website. “There’s a little quiet confidence. Before, in the middle of the struggles, everybody was trying to be animated, but you can just sense it was forced. We knew we’d start winning.”