Dodgers Report: Ryan Braun

Clayton Kershaw is a manager's best friend, but Don Mattingly is probably not picky these days. He'd gladly welcome Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier into the party.

[+] EnlargeKemp
AP Photo/Morry GashMatt Kemp, along with Clayton Kershaw and Andre Ethier, silenced the critics for at least one day as the Dodgers beat the Brewers.
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.

For at least one day, Kershaw, Kemp and Ethier made them all shut up in the Los Angeles Dodgers' 3-1 win over the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.

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.

More Dodgers-Brewers fireworks

March, 30, 2012
3/30/12
6:12
PM PT


GLENDALE, Ariz. -- For the second spring training in a row, there were tense moments in a Cactus League game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Milwaukee Brewers on Friday, this time the result of three batters being hit by pitches and another getting brushed back before the plate umpire warned both benches in the sixth inning.

Nothing much happened after that, though, and the Brewers went on to pound a Dodgers split squad 9-4 before 5,714 at Camelback Ranch. The Dodgers won their other game, 6-3 over the Chicago Cubs before 10,102 at HoHoKam Park in Mesa.

The whole thing began when Jerry Hairston, the Dodgers' first batter of the game, was plunked by Brewers reliever Francisco Rodriguez, who actually started the game but pitched only one inning on an afternoon when the Brewers went with all relievers. Dodgers pitcher Chris Capuano then hit Brewers right fielder Norichika Aoki with a pitch in the second, and Dodgers first baseman Juan Rivera later was hit by the Brewers' Marco Estrada leading off the bottom of the fifth.

When Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun, the reigning National League Most Valuable Player and the target of boos throughout the six innings he played because of his offseason positive test for performance-enhancing drugs -- he appealed the test and had his suspension overturned on a technicality -- came to the plate with two outs and none on in the sixth, he had to back away from an inside pitch from Capuano, at which point plate umpire Mike Lusky issued the warning.

Afterward, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly declined to say much on the matter.

"Nothing happened," Mattingly said. "Nobody came out. It was OK. It was fine. It's spring training. Guys are getting tired."

Last year, in a Dodgers-Brewers game at Maryvale Baseball Park, a Dodgers non-roster reliever named Roman Colon had words with Brewers infielder Casey McGehee on the way off the field between innings. This prompted Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder to come running out of the Brewers dugout in anticipation of a possible brawl, but order was quickly restored without anything close to a real incident.

*****

The game highlight was Andre Ethier, who continued to sizzle, going 2-for-4 with a two-run double and a two-run homer. He is now hitting .400 this spring, with 15 of his 18 hits having gone for extra bases. Oh, and Matt Kemp went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored twice, but didn't strike out, cutting his strikeouts from one every 2.6 plate appearances to one every 2.8 PAs. ... The highlight of the other game was a two-run triple by Dee Gordon off veteran reliever Manuel Corpas, breaking a 1-1 tie in the seventh inning. It was Gordon's third triple of the spring, and he is hitting .382.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Yasiel Puig
BA HR RBI R
.308 12 52 53
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Gonzalez 15
RBIA. Gonzalez 65
RD. Gordon 54
OPSY. Puig .916
WZ. Greinke 11
ERAC. Kershaw 1.92
SOC. Kershaw 134