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KEMP POWERS DODGERS TO EIGHTH STRAIGHT WIN


KEMP POWERS DODGERS TO EIGHTH STRAIGHT WIN
LOS ANGELES

The great 162-game season serves as an equalizer, the ups always balanced by the downs, the flourishes tempered by the slumps. The teams left playing in October are those who learned to tip the odds ever so slightly during the regular season and double-down when the action is hot.

The Dodgers , winners of eight consecutive games, are in the midst of such a streak. In the past seven days, the Dodgers have won every game in which they've played, and done so in every fashion. They've won by outslugging their opponents, as they did in Sunday's 14-2 win over the Rockies and their 11-1 home-opening win over the Giants.

They've won while coming from behind, as they did Friday against Colorado and Wednesday against the Giants. They can rely on their pitching when necessary and their hitting when they need to.

On Sunday, the Dodgers capped a 6-0 homestand by doing both.

Matt Kemp, who extended his season-opening hitting streak to 13 games, hit two home runs, including an opposite-field grand slam in the fifth inning. With each towering shot to right-center field, Kemp put into practice the offseason advice from hitting coach Don Mattingly, who told the 24-year-old to remain patient and resist the urge to pull the ball.

"He's really starting to come into his own and really understand how to use the whole field," Dodgers catcher Russell Martin said. "He's got more power than anybody on the team. I don't know if there's many guys in the league who have more power than he does. That first home run he hit? That's just pure strength right there."

Kemp's grand slam served as the centerpiece of a seven-run fifth inning, in which 12 Dodgers came to the plate and all but one - Rafael Furcal - reached base. By the end of the inning, the Dodgers led 8-0.

During their perfect six-game homestand, the Dodgers scored 50 runs, an average of 8.3 per game, and batted .367 with 11 home runs. Kemp hit two. Manny Ramirez hit two. Andre Ethier hit four. Furcal hit one. Casey Blake hit one. Orlando Hudson hit one, which came as part of a cycle in the home opener.

Since then, the Dodgers have received top-notch pitching performances from Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley. Sunday's starter, James McDonald, threw 4 1/3 shutout innings, allowing just four hits in his second career major league start.

In each win, Manager Joe Torre said, the Dodgers have excelled at taxing the opposing team's starting pitcher and pouncing on their relief corps. Which is exactly what happened Sunday against Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez, who had never lost to the Dodgers in six career starts.

The Dodgers roughed him up for seven runs over 4 1/3 innings, and afterward, Martin suggested Jimenez didn't seem like the pitcher of old. Hot streaks do have a way of tapering off.

"Streaks on both sides are going to happen during the course of this year," Torre said. "You have to hopefully milk the good ones for as long as you can."

Reach Michael Becker

at mbecker@PE.com


Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: April 22, 2009

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