Dodgers-Padres Preview

The Associated Press

Dan Haren has a tough act to follow after Clayton Kershaw's gem.

While the chances of the Los Angeles Dodgers throwing consecutive no-hitters is microscopic, it can't be ruled out given the way the San Diego Padres swing the bat.

Haren looks to lead the visiting Dodgers to a season-high fourth straight win in Friday night's series opener against the offensively challenged Padres.

Los Angeles (40-34) had a day off Thursday to catch its breath after Kershaw put together one of the greatest pitching performances in baseball history. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner struck out 15 and walked none allowing his only baserunner on a throwing error in Wednesday's 8-0 win over Colorado.

The Dodgers won for the eighth time in 11 games and pulled within four of NL West-leading San Francisco after being 9 1/2 out of first place on June 7.

"It tells you how fast things change, but also, there's no doubt you gain a little energy by creeping," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told MLB's official website.

Haren (7-4, 3.54 ERA) has contributed by winning back-to-back starts for the first time since April, but again ran into trouble early Saturday against Arizona. He gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down and yielding just one more prior to his exit with one out in the seventh of a 6-4 victory.

"I was scuffling out of the gate, and it's been the same way for a long time now,'' said Haren, who helped himself with a tiebreaking three-run double in the fourth inning. ''I haven't been coming out that crisp out of the bullpen."

The right-hander has allowed six first-inning runs in his last five starts, and his opponents are batting .328 in the first compared to .262 from there on out.

Facing San Diego could be the perfect elixir for getting off to a smooth start.

The Padres (31-42) are averaging 1.9 runs and batting .162 in going 5-12 this month. They managed two hits through the first six innings Thursday against Seattle before plating four in the seventh for a 4-1 win. It marked just the third time in 11 games San Diego scored more than two.

''A few guys start doing it, I mean, it starts clicking. We did it that inning and hopefully we can get it rolling a little more," first baseman Tommy Medica said.

Will Venable, who hit leadoff Thursday, is batting .171 with two runs this month, while No. 3 hitter Seth Smith is 9 for 48 (.188) with one RBI in June, dropping his average 29 points to .280.

Smith is 3 for his last 14 against Haren, who limited the Padres to an unearned run and four hits over six innings in a 5-1 road win April 2. The Dodgers took two of three in that series - their only one of the season - and have won nine of 11 meetings.

Ian Kennedy (5-8, 3.72) takes the ball after giving up three runs, seven hits and a season-high four walks over 5 1-3 innings in Sunday's 3-1 loss to the Mets. The right-hander has a 5.84 ERA in losing consecutive starts - both on the road - after posting a 2.00 ERA to win his previous three.

Kennedy gave up three runs in five innings of a 3-2 loss to the Dodgers on April 1, and is 0-3 with a 6.35 ERA in his last four against them.

Yasiel Puig, who is 7 for 16 in his last four games, homered off Kennedy in April. He is batting .341 on the road, up from .309 at Dodger Stadium.

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