Dodgers-Rockies Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers are one win away from their best start in 35 years.

Matt Kemp is enjoying the best individual start by a Dodgers hitter in just as long.

Kemp looks to cap an outstanding month with a strong performance Monday night as the Dodgers open a six-game road trip with the first of three contests against the Colorado Rockies.

Los Angeles is 16-6 for the first time since 1981, and with a fourth straight win Monday can achieve its best start through 23 games since opening 19-4 in 1977.

Kemp is the biggest reason for the Dodgers' start. The All-Star center fielder, who finished second in the NL MVP race to Milwaukee's Ryan Braun last year, leads the majors with a .425 average and 11 homers, while his 24 RBIs are tied with teammate Andre Ethier for the NL lead.

Kemp's current batting average would be the highest by a Dodger through April since Ron Cey hit .425 in 1977. It's also the best in baseball since Barry Bonds batted .472 through April 2004.

Kemp went 0 for 3 with a walk - his third hitless game of 2012 - on Sunday, but James Loney accounted for all the scoring with a bases-loaded single as Los Angeles beat Washington 2-0 to sweep a three-game set.

"We've got a great mix of guys, and we're going to need that through the long season to win games," Loney said. "A big hit, a big defensive play, and big baserunning play - all that stuff is going to matter. And it's going to take all of us to do that."

Loney batted .412 with three homers and eight RBIs in nine visits to Coors Field last season. Kemp has also thrived there, batting .380 with five homers and 15 RBIs in his last 13 contests in Colorado. However, the Dodgers went 3-6 at Coors in 2011,

Aaron Harang (1-1, 5.16 ERA) is scheduled to get the ball in search of his first win over the Rockies (10-11) since Aug. 22, 2008, when he pitched for Cincinnati. The right-hander is 0-2 with an 8.84 ERA in four starts versus Colorado since, including a 14.85 ERA in two outings at Coors.

Rockies left fielder Carlos Gonzalez is 4 for 8 with a homer and two doubles off Harang.

Harang allowed three runs, six hits and four walks in six innings Tuesday, not getting a decision in a 4-3 loss to Atlanta.

The Rockies dropped below .500 with their second straight loss Sunday, falling 6-5 in 11 innings to the New York Mets after rallying twice to tie the game with homers, including an eighth-inning grand slam from Todd Helton.

"I think we do a pretty good job of bouncing back," Helton said. "It was a tough loss, but we'll be fine (Monday)."

Helton is 6 for 13 with the homer, two doubles, one triple, and six RBIs in his last five games, and is batting .383 with six homers and 15 RBIs in his last 14 home games against the Dodgers.

Juan Nicasio (1-0, 4.76) will get the ball for Colorado, trying to improve upon his 5-1 record and 3.42 ERA in nine career home starts.

The right-hander was solid on the road Wednesday, yielding one run and scattering nine hits in 6 2-3 innings, but didn't get a decision in a 2-1 win over Pittsburgh.

Nicasio is 0-1 with a 7.59 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers.

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