Dodgers shoot for third consecutive win in opener with Braves

In a rotation expected to be led by Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu has been a surprising and consistent contributor for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

After playing stopper last time out, Ryu will try to extend the Dodgers' current string of success on Friday night when they begin a three-game series against the slumping Atlanta Braves.

The 26-year-old Ryu is 4-2 with a 3.40 earned run average in eight starts this season, his first in the major leagues. He has allowed three runs or fewer in six of those starts and will face the Braves for the first time.

Ryu helped Los Angeles snap an eight-game slide with a 7-1 victory over the Miami Marlins last Saturday, scattering a run, five hits and three walks over 6 2/3 innings.

"He was really good tonight. He set the tone, putting up all those zeroes," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of his left-hander. "It's been a battle for us, but it's win and hopefully this will start us in the right direction."

That has in fact been the case as the Dodgers have won four of five, beginning with Ryu's last win, and notched a series victory over the Washington Nationals with Wednesday's 3-1 victory.

Greinke made an early return to the mound and picked up the victory after yielding a run on five hits and no walks over 5 1/3 innings. He also added an RBI single in his first appearance since suffering a broken left collarbone during a brawl with the San Diego Padres on April 11.

"It feels pretty good to be back. I felt I was healthy enough to pitch over two weeks ago, I just wasn't sharp enough to pitch," the right-handed Greinke said. "The collarbone feels pretty good. It's not 100 percent, but it doesn't restrict me at all pitching."

Adrian Gonzalez added an RBI single in the first while Carl Crawford contributed a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning for the Dodgers, who still remain last in the NL West.

Unlike the Dodgers, the Braves began the 2013 season red-hot by going 12-1 over their first 13. However, they have lost 17 of their past 27 since and Wednesday's loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks gave the club a 4-6 road trip.

Tim Hudson struggled in the 5-3 loss, yielding five runs on eight hits over five innings. Freddie Freeman went 3-for-4 and drove in all three runs for the Braves.

"Just losing two out of three, you feel like we won a couple of those games because of the way we hit the ball," said Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez.

The Braves have struggled to win lately with Paul Maholm on the mound. The left-hander is 1-4 over his last five starts with a 6.83 ERA since beginning the season with three straight wins that spanned 20 1/3 scoreless innings.

The 30-year-old Maholm is coming off Saturday's loss to San Francisco as he was charged with six runs on eight hits and three walks over 4 1/3 innings. He fell to 4-4 on the year with a 3.94 ERA.

Maholm has struggled over his career against the Dodgers, going just 1-5 with a 4.91 ERA in nine meetings.

The Dodgers and Braves split six meetings last year, with Los Angeles winning two of three in Atlanta.