Posted April 16, 2012 on AP on Fox
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The Los Angeles Dodgers' third-place finish in the NL West likely played a part in Matt Kemp getting beaten out for the 2011 MVP by Ryan Braun, who led the Milwaukee Brewers to their first division title in nearly three decades. If there was early voting for the award in 2012, Kemp would be the runaway winner after helping Los Angeles get off to its best start in 31 years. Kemp and the major league-leading Dodgers look to open 10-1 for the first time since moving to Los Angeles, while the host Brewers try to snap a four-game losing streak Tuesday night. Kemp finished second to Braun for MVP after hitting .324 with league highs of 39 homers and 126 RBIs, along with a career-best 40 steals. Braun got 56 more votes following a season in which he finished second in the NL in batting at .332 and had 33 homers with 111 RBIs. He added a career-high 33 steals. The difference may have been Braun helping Milwaukee to a franchise-record 96 wins and the NL Central title, while the Dodgers finished 11 1/2 games back. In the early going this season, though, there's no question who the top player in the NL - and baseball - has been. Kemp is batting .487 with six homers and 16 RBIs, and he homered for the fourth time in three games in a 5-4 victory over San Diego on Sunday. The Dodgers completed a 6-0 homestand and are 9-1 for the first time since 1981, when they won the World Series. "He's not going to be able to keep up this pace, I'll say that. But it's legit," manager Don Mattingly told the team's official website. "You don't just do some of the things that he's been doing." No Dodgers team has opened 10-1 since the Brooklyn Dodgers began 11-1 in 1955 - when the franchise won its first World Series title. Giving the ball to Chad Billingsley (2-0, 0.63 ERA) could help Los Angeles move closer to that mark. The right-hander has 15 strikeouts and one walk in two starts. Billingsley gave up one run in six innings of a 4-1 victory over Pittsburgh on Wednesday, throwing only 77 pitches. "He's pounding the strike zone and making guys miss," said right fielder Andre Ethier, among the major league leaders with 15 RBIs. Billingsley will face a Brewers team that batted .215 and posted a 7.31 ERA while losing four straight to end its seven-game trip. "If we play like this we're going to get beat everywhere," manager Ron Roenicke said following a 7-4 defeat to Atlanta on Sunday. "We can't continue like this.'' The Brewers (4-6) will look to avoid their first five-game skid since Sept. 6-10 with Yovani Gallardo (1-1, 5.91) on the hill. Milwaukee is winless since the right-hander pitched seven innings of one-run ball in a 2-1 road victory over Chicago on Wednesday. Gallardo is 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in four starts against Los Angeles. It's his highest ERA against any team he's faced more than once. Kemp, 4 for 12 with a double off Gallardo, didn't drive in a run as the Dodgers lost three of four in their last visit to Miller Park from Aug. 15-18. Braun, batting .343 this season, went 8 for 22 with one homer as Milwaukee took four of six from Los Angeles in 2011.
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