There was a swirl of stories about Mattingly's job status even before first pitch Monday night in Milwaukee. There were stories about Mattingly's feelings on the matter, stories about general manager Ned Colletti's feelings on the matter, and the usual array of defenses and indictments of the manager from various columnists.
Kershaw (5-2) gave Mattingly a respite from having to bring his wobbling bullpen into a tight game by pitching all nine innings, holding the Brewers to just three hits and striking out five.
The newer wrinkle, though, was some power from two bats the Dodgers have been waiting and waiting on. Kemp hit his second home run of the season -- a sinking missile into the left-field stands -- that broke his homerless streak of 80 at-bats, and Ethier also went deep and drove in the other two runs.
The Dodgers were coming off a painful sweep in Atlanta, one in which the team's relievers coughed up late leads in all three games. That dreary weekend had ramped up speculation about Mattingly's job, with one national columnist suggesting he could be fired Thursday when the Dodgers return for seven games in Southern California.
It's days like that when it's nice to see Kershaw warming up.
Pitching on an extra day of rest after his career-high 132-pitch win over the Washington Nationals, Kershaw dominated again. Not only was the bullpen struggling, but it was tired -- and, as usual, those things are related. Kershaw gave the Dodgers' relievers a night to rest their arms and clear their heads.
With all the negative storylines, pressure could have built if the Dodgers hadn't jumped ahead early. They scored in the second inning. After a Kemp walk, Ethier sent a line drive over the head of Norichika Aoki, who twisted in circles trying to track it down, giving Ethier an RBI triple.
It wasn't a breakout performance for the Dodgers' offense, which ranked 28th in home runs coming in, but it was at least a suggestion that two of their most important pieces might break out of this months-long slump. Who knows, maybe it will be just in time.