Posted May 24, 2012 on AP on Fox
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Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw will go into Friday night with a 22-inning scoreless streak. The Houston Astros have scored twice in their last 28 innings against him. The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner has lost once in his last 20 home outings and will be heavily favored against the Astros in the opener of a three-game set. Kershaw (4-1, 1.90 ERA) threw his first complete game of the season Saturday, yielding six hits and not issuing a walk over a season-high 117 pitches in a 6-0 victory over St. Louis. He improved to 14-1 with a 1.50 ERA in his last 20 starts at home, and he hasn't yielded a run since giving up Brett Pill's two-run homer in the second inning of a 2-1 defeat to San Francisco on May 8. That remains Kershaw's only home loss in the 20-game run. "It just gives us a ton of confidence in this clubhouse that when it's his day to pitch, he's going to give us an awesome chance to win the game," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "You know what you're getting with Kersh. He's the same consistent guy on and off the field, and he knows he's got a job to do no matter what the circumstances." The left-hander is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA in his last four outings against the Astros (21-23), with 30 strikeouts and six walks over 28 innings. Kershaw struck out a season-high nine batters and yielded three hits over seven scoreless innings in a 5-1 victory at Houston on April 21, saying that he "didn't have great fastball command" after throwing 61 of 104 pitches for strikes. Houston had a different viewpoint. "He was mixing his pitches pretty good and keeping everybody off balance," slugger Carlos Lee told the Astros' official website. "He was throwing everything in any count. When a guy is pitching like that, it's tough." Los Angeles (30-14) took two of three that weekend, as Houston ended a six-game slide in the series with a 12-0 victory in the finale. Matt Kemp homered twice in that series and Houston native James Loney also went deep for the Dodgers. Loney is batting .360 in his last 15 games to help make up for the absence of Kemp, who remains out with a strained left hamstring. The Dodgers have won seven of 10 since he last played, but their six-game win streak ended Wednesday with an 11-4 defeat at Arizona. Manager Don Mattingly gave Andre Ethier his first day off after the outfielder started the first 43 games. Ethier, hitting .418 in his last 15 games, remains among the major league leaders with 40 RBIs. "At the beginning of the season, Donnie talked to me and said if I stay healthy, he'd like to plan five or six days off, about one game a month," Ethier told the Dodgers' official website. "He said that should be ideal for me." The Dodgers will face the Astros' Lucas Harrell (3-3, 4.09) for the first time. Houston has lost all five of Harrell's road starts, with the right-hander going 0-3 with a 5.60 ERA. Harrell got credit for a 6-5 win over Texas on Saturday, yielding four runs over 5 2-3 innings. Houston starters posted a 0.90 ERA this week in a three-game home sweep of the Cubs.
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