For weeks, Matt Kemp has shown he's prepared to build on an impressive 2011 campaign. His Los Angeles Dodgers teammates might be finally ready to contribute at the plate as well.
After a season-best performance in the series opener against the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers will try to build on their superb start to this season by earning another win Tuesday night.
Kemp has carried much of Los Angeles' offense in the early season by hitting .460 with an MLB-best nine homers and 22 RBIs. The Dodgers (13-4) were batting .248 through their first 16 games and would have been hitting .222 without help from the reigning NL home run and RBI leader, who also had a .324 average in 2011.
After having a 10-game hitting streak snapped Sunday in Houston, the outfielder went 2 for 3 and scored a run during Monday's 7-2 win over the Braves. Los Angeles had a season-high 15 hits in that victory with Juan Uribe going 4 for 4 with three RBIs.
"I was hurt last year, but I wanted to play and show the guys I could play and help the team," said Uribe, in the second year of a three-year, $21 million contract after helping San Francisco win a World Series title in 2010. "I'm not putting too much pressure on myself right now. For me, it was just important for us to win the game. That's why I come to the ballpark."
Andre Ethier contributed three hits and drove in a run, while A.J. Ellis had a pair of run-scoring singles.
Ethier has matched Kemp's 22 RBIs and the duo need seven more Tuesday to match the major league-best 51 from Alex Rodriguez (34) and Jason Giambi (17) for the New York Yankees through the first 18 games of the 2007 season.
They'll try to keep hitting against Mike Minor (2-1, 3.10 ERA), who is seeking his third win in as many starts. The left-hander has a 0.59 ERA in those outings after giving up six runs over five innings in his season debut against the New York Mets on April 8.
He gave up two runs and five hits over a career-high eight innings Thursday, struck out nine, and walked none during a 10-2 win at Arizona.
"He's heading in the right direction," manager Fredi Gonzalez told the team's website. "He's growing up right in front of our eyes. He's maturing and using that changeup, and in 3-2 counts, he's throwing some pretty good breaking pitches."
Minor did not get a decision in his only start against the Dodgers on Sept. 3 in Atlanta, despite allowing one run over six innings.
Los Angeles will turn to veteran right-hander Aaron Harang (1-1, 5.40) as it tries to improve to 8-0 at home - its best start there since going 13-0 in 2009 - and earn a sixth win in seven matchups with the Braves (10-7).
The Dodgers are also seeking a fourth consecutive home victory over Atlanta and Harang will try to help by winning consecutive starts. He gave up three runs and scattered eight hits over six innings Thursday in a 4-3 win in Milwaukee.
Harang was tagged for eight runs over six innings to the Braves during a home loss for San Diego on April 26 but yielded two runs over another six frames May 30 while not factoring in the decision in a 3-2 road win.