Offense Showed Positive Signs on Homestand

Ubaldo Jimenez was due to return to the Ubaldo Jimenez of old, and that day came Wednesday night against the Dodgers. Jimenez pitched a four-hit, complete-game shutout, 3-0, that snapped a four-game winning streak. "He had us off-stride all night," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. Added Dodgers starter Jon Garland, "You run into a buzzsaw like Ubaldo was tonight, that's always tough."

The Dodgers still went 4-2 on a productive homestand that offered the best hope their offense can score enough runs. They were 26-31, 5 1/2 games behind first-place Arizona, through Wednesday.

Rafael Furcal and Casey Blake returned to the lineup and worked out of the rust from being on the disabled list. Andre Ethier and James Loney showed signs of finding the power they've been lacking this year.

Now comes a 10-game road trip that could further bolster the Dodgers' offense. They're going to three of the best hitters' ballparks in the National League: Cincinnati, Philadelphia and Colorado.

Sure, they will face the Phillies' terrific starting rotation and are likely to see Jimenez again (since it's a four-game series).

But for a team lacking power, they're going to places where they will get rewarded for deep drives that often die on the warning track in the cool air at Dodger Stadium.

Juan Uribe's target date to come off the disabled list is Monday in Philadelphia, so the Dodgers could have their projected everyday lineup on the field for the first time since the second week of the season.

If they can't score consistently with all their regulars in the lineup, and in those three ballparks, then it will be clear this offense just isn't good enough.

If they can do some damage, and then stay healthy, that will provide optimism their lineup -- while never being a juggernaut -- can be good enough to still make a playoff run.

Kemp, Ethier have All-Star credentials
Andre Ethier started last year's All-Star Game, remained in the spotlight this year with a 30-game hitting streak -- and at fourth place in the most recent voting (776,971 votes), he's within striking distance of catching Lance Berkman (872,434) to start again.

Meanwhile, his teammate and friend Matt Kemp is a more distant fifth in the voting (549,215) despite putting together a more consistent all-around season.

After throwing out a runner at the plate and stealing his 14th base of the year, Kemp connected on his 13th home run and drove in four runs in the Dodgers' 8-2 victory over the Rockies.

Rockies manager Jim Tracy even walked Ethier to load the bases and set the stage for Kemp's two-run single in the third inning. Tracy wasn't making an editorial statement. First base was open, and he was setting up the double play and giving right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen a right-handed hitter to face.

Playing in his 260th consecutive game, the longest streak in the majors, Kemp also came within an eyelash of robbing Ty Wigginton of a home run in the seventh.

"That's the kind of player that I came to know and love," said third baseman Casey Blake, who came over to the Dodgers in Kemp's first full season in 2008. "He has that ability. He's finally maturing a bit and putting together a heck of a season.

"Nobody in (this clubhouse) is surprised. He's capable of doing that. What I'm proud of Matt is how hard he's playing, day in and day out, running out popups and everything. He's the entire package."

The competition is always fierce among outfielders, and here's where the Dodgers' stars ranked among National League outfielders before Tuesday:

* Batting average: Ethier third (.330), Kemp sixth (.308).
* On-base percentage: Ethier fourth (.404), Kemp sixth (.387).
* Slugging percentage: Kemp fourth (.556), Ethier 13th (.464).
* Home runs: Kemp second (13), Ethier in a five-way tie for 27th (five).
* Runs batted in: Kemp tied for fourth (36), Ethier 18th (26).
* Stolen bases: Kemp third (14), Ethier not worth mentioning.

It's possible they both end up all-stars, if they can maintain this hitting, of course.

Ethier's lack of power might hurt his chances a little. But as an Arizona native, and with the All-Star Game in Phoenix, he might get a boost by voting fans to start the game in his home state.

NOTES, QUOTES
--RHP Jon Garland allowed three runs in six innings, a quality start and sometimes good enough for a win but not good enough on this night to prevent his record from falling to a deceptive 1-5. He gave up leadoff hits in the second, third and fourth innings -- and all were extra-base hits.

--LHP Clayton Kershaw has a shot at NL Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0 with a 1.77 ERA in May. Kershaw struck out 46 batters in his six starts, and the league hit .117 against him. Kershaw's numbers could have been even better, but he was lifted for a pinch hitter early in two of those six starts.

--RF Matt Kemp won't win NL Player of the Month for May, but he was the best player on the Dodgers. In fact, he clubbed seven of the team's 20 home runs. His slash line was .253/.327/.495, and for a team besieged by injuries, it can't be forgotten that he has played every day.

--RHP Vicente Padilla is expected to get activated from the disabled list before Friday's game in Cincinnati. He pitched two innings in each of his two rehab games. It wasn't by design. Both times, his first inning was so efficient, he needed a second inning -- and even then, he threw a few more pitches in the bullpen afterward. Manager Don Mattingly would like to use Padilla for multiple innings once he returns.

--INF Juan Uribe will begin a rehab assignment Thursday with Class A Rancho Cucamonga. He's eligible to get activated from the DL on Saturday, but the more likely date for his return is Monday in Philadelphia.

--OF Marcus Thames went 0-for-1 as a pinch hitter in his rehab game for Triple-A Albuquerque. The medical staff is alternating his appearances from the outfield to designated hitter to pinch hitter to make sure he does not aggravate his quad injury. Thames is 1-for-10 (the hit was a home run) so far and likely has another week of games before the Dodgers start thinking about activating him from the DL.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- Dodgers managers to get a bobblehead made in their likeness. Tommy Lasorda was the first in 2001. Joe Torre received his bobblehead in his 2008 debut season with the Dodgers. Don Mattingly became the third on Wednesday night with a likeness that drew rave reviews from players, especially Jamey Carroll. Even though many New Yorkers miss his moustache, Mattingly says "those days are over" and "I'm in L.A. now." He remains clean shaven.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "He pitched OK. Jon pitches like he always does. He's not lighting up the radar gun. But he's going to change speeds and keep doing different things. He's going to make them fight for their runs." -- Manager Don Mattingly, on the performance on starter Jon Garland.

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