Dodgers-Astros Preview

Three starts into the season, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton

Kershaw is still seeking his first victory.

The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner could have better luck

against a Houston Astros team that has had its problems

offensively.

Kershaw looks to bounce back from a subpar outing and help the

Dodgers win their sixth straight over the Astros on Saturday night

at Minute Maid Park.

Matt Kemp again led the way for Los Angeles (11-3) in Friday’s

3-1 series-opening win, homering for one of his three hits and

driving in two runs. The 2011 All-Star center fielder already has

20 RBIs and his homer was his eighth, tying Wally Moon’s club

record for most home runs through 14 games, set in 1961.

“I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to help us win games,”

said Kemp, batting .481 with a 1.525 OPS.

Houston (5-9) is certainly no stranger to Kemp’s exploits. He

has homered in his last three contests against the Astros, and is

batting .412 with six RBIs during the Dodgers’ five-game winning

streak in the series.

Kershaw (0-0, 2.35 ERA) has contributed to that streak, and Los

Angeles tends to win when he takes the ball. Although the

left-hander is still without a victory, the Dodgers have won each

of his three starts this year and 16 of his last 18.

Kershaw’s last time on the mound, though, was a struggle.

After allowing one run and one walk total through his first two

outings, he gave up four runs, eight hits and three walks in 5 1-3

innings of the Dodgers’ 5-4 victory over San Diego on Sunday. The

four runs were the most he’d allowed since Aug. 7 against Arizona,

a span of 12 starts.

Six days after that outing against the Diamondbacks, Kershaw

yielded one run and six hits while striking out nine in eight

innings of a 6-1 win over Houston. He’s 2-0 with a 0.86 ERA In his

last three starts versus the Astros, permitting 12 hits and four

walks in 21 innings.

Kershaw will face a Houston lineup that did rough up Edwin

Jackson and Tom Gorzelanny to the tune of 11 runs in beating

Washington on Thursday, but returned to its scuffling ways Friday –

the Astros’ fifth loss in six games. They’ve combined for 10 runs

in those five defeats.

Cleanup hitter Carlos Lee has gone six games without driving in

a run, but is 4 for 13 with a homer against Kershaw.

The Astros counter with Kyle Weiland (0-2, 8.44), who again

seeks his first major league victory.

After going 0-3 with a 7.66 ERA in seven games – five starts –

last season for Boston, Weiland is off to a rough start in 2012.

Against Washington on Monday, the right-hander yielded six runs, 10

hits and four walks in 5 2-3 innings of a 6-3 loss.

His last start came against Stephen Strasburg, and it’s not

going to get any easier drawing Kershaw.

“You try to focus on your own game,” said Weiland, who admitted

to feeling a little pressure going against Strasburg. “Obviously,

you know that’s in the back of your mind.”