Nationals-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers may be one of the better hitting teams in the NL, but they haven't been able to provide much run support for ace Clayton Kershaw.

The former Cy Young winner gets the start at home Tuesday night against a Washington Nationals team that could be without Bryce Harper.

Los Angeles (15-22) has been one of the biggest disappointments of the early season as rumors continue to swirl about manager Don Mattingly being on the hot seat. His team has suffered two losing streaks of at least six games and hasn't beaten any club other than NL-worst Miami all month after falling 6-2 to Washington in Monday's series opener.

The Dodgers, though, are fourth in the NL hitting .263, with Adrian Gonzalez batting .382 during a 10-game hitting streak while Matt Kemp is riding a 12-game run.

However, the team's .223 average with runners in scoring position has contributed to it ranking 28th in the majors with 129 runs scored, and Kershaw (3-2, 1.62 ERA) has felt the brunt of that lack of production.

Kershaw has been especially dominant lately going 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts over his last three starts, but the Dodgers have lost his last two while scoring three runs combined.

The left-hander's 2.10 run support average is the worst in baseball among qualifiers, as Los Angeles has scored just 13 times in his 55 2-3 innings on the hill.

''Every time he steps on the mound, it should be a win," catcher A.J. Ellis told the team's official website. "He's the premier pitcher in all of baseball, and we're letting those games get away that should be wins."

Kershaw allowed two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 win April 27, 2012, the last time he faced the Nationals, though he has a 4.32 ERA in six career starts against them.

Ryan Zimmerman is 4 for 9 off Kershaw and is coming off a three-RBI performance Monday as Washington (21-17) won for the eighth time in 11 games.

It's unclear if the Nationals will have Harper in the lineup for this contest after he received 11 stitches near his chin due to running full speed into the outfield wall in the fifth inning.

Harper, who was playing his second game after missing two with an ingrown toenail, suffered a cut - but no concussion - and did not return.

''I would rather him not go all-out into the wall,'' Zimmerman said. "If you play that hard every day, there is something to be said about that. He's going to play a long time and you have to learn to take care of your body. As he grows, he'll learn what to do and what not to do.''

Dan Haren (4-3, 5.17) will get the start for Washington and has posted a 3.15 ERA while winning three straight outings. He beat Detroit 5-4 on Thursday and has been much better of late after going 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA in his first four starts.

The right-hander allowed five runs in five innings but earned an 8-5 win the last time he faced the Dodgers on June 22, and he's 6-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 16 career starts against them.

Washington's victory in the series opener ended a five-game skid at Dodger Stadium.

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