Published April 21, 2012
HOUSTON – Matt Kemp wants to make the Los Angeles Dodgers known as a dangerous team.
So far the star slugger is doing a great job of doing just that.
Kemp set a franchise record for home runs through 15 games with his ninth of the season to back up a solid outing by Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers got a 5-1 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
"I'm just trying to do good for my team and just trying to get wins and put us on the map again," Kemp said. "When teams come in they have to strap it up and get ready because we're going to try our best to go beat you guys."
Kemp's two-run shot to center field in the sixth inning off Kyle Weiland (0-3) scored Dee Gordon, extending the lead to 3-0 and giving him a home run in three straight games. It also extended his major league-leading RBI total to 22 and his hitting streak to 10 games.
Kemp is hitting .556 with seven homers and 13 RBIs since his streak began.
James Loney gave Los Angeles a 1-0 lead in the second inning with a two-out homer to the second deck in right field.
Kershaw (1-0), the NL Cy Young winner, struck out nine and allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings for his first win this season after no decisions in his first three games this year. The victory extends his career-long winning streak to nine games, dating back to an Aug. 13, 2011 win over the Astros.
He was happy with the results on a night where he didn't feel like he had his best stuff.
"I didn't have great fastball command tonight," Kershaw said. "I struggled with my fastball. I didn't exactly know where it was going all the time. I was fortunate to get some outs here and there. It was a battle tonight. It didn't come easy, but you're going to have those nights."
Kemp, who had three hits including a two-run homer on Friday night, struck out in the first inning and jawed with the home plate umpire for a bit after he struck out again — this time looking — in the fourth.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said his team had trouble seeing the ball early in the game because of shadows on the field with the roof of Minute Maid Park open. The offense heated up after the sun went down.
Gordon had a bunt single with one out in the sixth and later advanced to third on a throwing error by Weiland. Kemp's first-pitch homer came with two outs and was his first of the season that wasn't an opposite-field shot to right.
"I did the exact opposite of what we wanted," Weiland said of Kemp's homer. "Coming out there in that situation, you can't give him anything close to hit. I dropped my elbow a little bit there and the pitch just spun up there. I knew it as soon as I threw it I was going to be in trouble."
Gordon doubled with two outs in the eighth before consecutive walks by Adam Kennedy and Kemp. Andre Ethier's two RBI single pushed his RBI total to 21, which is second in the majors, and left the Dodgers up 5-0.
The combined 43 RBIs in the first 15 games by Kemp and Ethier ties a major league record. Alex Rodriguez and Bobby Abreu also had 43 RBIs for the 2007 Yankees to start the season.
"I've just got to keep pace with him somehow," Ethier said of Kemp. "If you're going to be chasing anyone, that's the guy to be chasing. If I stay close to him, I know I'm doing pretty good myself."
Kershaw allowed a single with one out in the second, but didn't allow another hit until a ground-rule double by Matt Downs with two outs in the fifth. He intentionally walked Chris Snyder before Weiland grounded into a force out to end that inning.
Houston's only other hit off Kershaw came on a single by J.D. Martinez with two outs in the sixth.
Justin Maxwell singled off Mike MacDougal with one out in the eighth before he walked Jordan Schafer and Jose Altuve to load the bases. Kenley Jansen replaced him and walked Martinez to get Houston within 5-1.
Carlos Lee popped out before Kemp snagged a long fly ball hit by Jed Lowrie to end the threat.
Weiland got back on track after the early homer to Loney. Kershaw singled with one out in the third, but Weiland faced the minimum in that inning thanks to a double play. He sailed through the fourth before allowing a leadoff double to Juan Rivera and walking Loney in the fifth. His defense helped him get out of that inning with another double play.
Weiland yielded six hits and three runs — both season lows — with a season-high six strikeouts in seven innings.
NOTES: Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said infielder Juan Uribe had recovered from an injured wrist and he expects him to start Sunday. ... These teams wrap up the series Sunday when Houston left-hander Wandy Rodriguez (0-2) looks for his first win against Chad Billingsley, who is 2-0 this season.