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Ethier hits HR as Kershaw, Dodgers hand Reds' Leake first loss in majors

CINCINNATI -- Clayton Kershaw is sure pitching like a No. 1.

The former first-round draft pick extended his streak of solid starts on Wednesday night, outpitching rookie Mike Leake and leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 6-2 victory over the slumping Cincinnati Reds.

Kershaw (7-3) won a matchup of promising, 22-year-old starters, giving up one run and seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. He's been on a tear lately, going 6-1 in his past eight starts with a 1.82 ERA.

With each win, the left-hander moves a little closer to being considered the Dodgers' ace.

"He certainly isn't afraid of it," manager Joe Torre said. "I'm more afraid of it than he is because I don't think it's fair at this point to stay he's going to lead us."

Kershaw went a combined 13-13 in his first two seasons. He's already one win away from matching his victory total from last season.

"Every year you try to get better," Kershaw said. "This year I've got a lot more confidence in my off-speed stuff. I feel I can throw a strike whenever I want to."

Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer -- his first since breaking a finger -- that sent Leake (5-1) to his first loss in the majors. Manny Ramirez added a solo homer in the ninth and threw out a runner at the plate to help the Dodgers get under the Reds' skin a little bit more.

The Dodgers are 25-6 against the Reds since 2006, a team they've beaten like no other. They've won the first two games of the series by a combined 18-2, shutting down the NL's most prolific offense.

Frustration got to the Reds in the sixth inning.

With runners on first and third, Scott Rolen took a pitch that appeared to be several inches low. Plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it strike three, and Rolen went face-to-face, drawing a quick ejection. Manager Dusty Baker pushed his player away and took up his cause, waving his cap in his right hand while also getting pitched.

It was the first ejection for both this season. It was only the third ejection of Rolen's career.

"Scott hardly says anything," Baker said. "I saw it the same way he saw it. That was a big call."

Rolen, the Reds' hottest hitter, wasn't going to go down without an argument this time.

"I just felt like that could have been a game-changing at-bat right there," Rolen said.

Although in first place in the NL Central for the past 10 days, the Reds have struggled. They fell to 3-6 on a homestand that concludes Thursday.

The Dodgers have been waiting for Ethier to regain his stroke. He homered on May 12 and was batting an NL-leading .392 when he broke his right pinkie finger during batting practice three days later. He was batting only .218 since returning on May 31.

"Ethier finally got his home run," Torre said. "Hopefully he can maybe go on a little bit of a tear. That would be nice."

James Loney added a two-run double off Leake, who has struggled in both his starts against the Dodgers. He gave up nine hits and five runs in six innings, leaving with a 5-0 deficit. He also gave up five runs -- his career high -- in an 8-5 win over L.A. on April 22.

He got his first loss in his 13th start.

"I don't like them," Leake said. "I finally got the first one. Now it's out of the way, and I can move on from it."

Leake was the eighth overall pick in June, and went directly to the majors. Kershaw was the seventh overall pick in 2006.

Game notes
LH Hong-Chih Kuo got his second career save by getting the last five outs. He gave up Chris Heisey's third pinch-hit homer in the ninth. ... The Dodgers are playing with an extra reliever for the next few days. Starter Chad Billingsley went on the 15-day DL with a groin injury. Reliever Travis Schlichting was called up. He'll likely go back to the minors on Saturday when starter Vicente Padilla comes off the DL. ... Reds RHP Edinson Volquez will make his second rehab start at Class A on Thursday. Volquez had elbow reconstruction surgery in August. He has completed a 50-game suspension for using a banned fertility substance.