The Milwaukee Brewers have two things in their favor in the opener of their four-game series at Chavez Ravine, one of which is the absence of Matt Kemp from the Los Angeles Dodgers’ lineup for perhaps the last time.
The other is sending Shaun Marcum to a mound that’s far away from Miller Park.
Marcum looks to continue his solid work on the road Monday at Dodger Stadium, while Los Angeles aims for a 10th win in 14 games without its superstar on the likely eve of Kemp’s return.
Kemp hasn’t played since May 13 because of a strained right hamstring, but he’s eligible to return from the disabled list Tuesday and will do so barring a setback during a two-game stint at Triple-A Albuquerque.
The Dodgers (32-15) were a major league-best 23-11 - averaging 4.4 runs and hitting .262 - before Kemp went down, but they’ve been even better while he’s been on the DL. Los Angeles has averaged 4.8 runs and won 9 of 13 without Kemp after Jerry Hairston Jr. had a career-high five hits in Sunday’s 5-1 victory over Houston.
“Matt’s arguably the best player in the game, and you hate to lose a guy like that because it can be pretty devastating for the team. But we feel we have a complete team,” Hairston said. “And even with Matt in the lineup, we’re going to need everybody to contribute to be successful. Everybody’s been doing that, and it’s been fun.”
Even with some makeshift lineups - Sunday’s featured Andre Ethier batting cleanup surrounded by eight hitters who’d hit a total of four homers in 2012 - the Dodgers have experienced no fall-off in their play.
They won’t have it easy Monday, though, as Marcum (2-3, 3.93 ERA) looks to improve on his 2-0 record and 1.37 ERA in three starts against Los Angeles.
Only one of those came in the past five seasons - seven innings of one-run ball May 16, 2011, at Chavez Ravine - but there’s ample evidence the right-hander can pitch well again. Marcum is 9-5 with a 2.45 ERA in 21 road starts since joining Milwaukee (19-28) last season, a far cry from his 6-5 record and 4.82 ERA at Miller Park.
Marcum, winless in his last four road outings despite a 2.88 ERA, gave up a season-high six runs and five hits - including a pair of two-run homers - in Tuesday’s 6-4 home loss to San Francisco.
Marcum has given the Brewers a quality start in 16 of 21 road outings, and they could certainly use one considering the rotation has posted a 5.46 ERA as they’ve lost eight of 11. Armed with a 3-1 lead heading into the bottom of the sixth Sunday in Arizona, Randy Wolf couldn’t make it through the inning and Milwaukee lost 4-3.
“It is frustrating the way things have been going,” Wolf said. “Once we feel like we are playing better baseball and get some wins, but things just kind of happened. Obviously the frustration is going to be palpable.”
To make matters worse, injuries are starting to pile up. A day after placing shortstop Cesar Izturis on the 15-day DL with a strained left hamstring, the Brewers lost first baseman Travis Ishikawa to a right oblique strain.
He’ll also head to the DL, while Brooks Conrad will come up from Triple-A Nashville.
The right-hander is 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA in two starts against the Brewers since the start of 2011. He gave up three runs over six innings April 19 in a 4-3 win at Miller Park.
Braun is 7 for 28 against Harang, but three of those hits were homers.