Break Comes at Bad Time for Dodgers

The Dodgers might be the happiest 10-game-under .500 team in baseball. However, they wish the All-Star break could wait another week. "It seemed like a good time for a break four days ago," manager Don Mattingly said. "Now, I'm not sure."

That's what a four-game winning streak, a team's first of the year, going into the All-Star break will do. The pitching staff allowed one run in those four games, which came in Sunday's 4-1 win over the Padres. It was the Dodgers' first sweep of the season.

The Dodgers' last series sweep was a three-game set against the Rockies at Coors Field from Sept. 27-29, 2010 and Los Angeles' last home series sweep came against the Cardinals from June 7-9, 2010.

The Dodgers needed a win today in order to avoid entering the All-Star break in last place for the first time since 1999, when they were 39-47 and 10.0 games out of first place at the break.

The Dodgers posted three straight shutouts for the first time since July 25-27, 1991, when they blanked the Phillies and Expos (twice). The Mets were the last big league team to toss three consecutive shutouts, blanking the Phillies over a three-game series from May 25-27, 2010.

The club missed tying the Los Angeles Dodgers record of four consecutive shutouts set from Sept. 9-11, 1966, when the Dodgers blanked the Astros over the course of a four-game series. That stretch also marks the longest scoreless streak in Los Angeles history as the club did not allow a run over 38.0 consecutive innings from Sept. 9-12, 1966.

"It does a lot (for our confidence), especially going into the break," reliever Blake Hawksworth said. "We're not going to give up. A lot of people have given up on us, but there's a lot of fight left in us. We go into the break with some momentum, then we go to Arizona and San Fran coming out of the break. This thing can turn around real quick."

Andre Ethier goes into the All-Star Game festivities with some momentum. He connected on his first home run in 18 games in the fifth inning Sunday, then hit another in the eighth inning.

"Anytime you're playing good, you're pitching good and hitting good, you want to keep going," Ethier said. "But at the same time, it will be good to have this good feeling in our minds and in our mouths to taste, go home and relax and forget about baseball and hopefully be refreshed, and still have this fresh in our minds when we come back."

A year ago, the Dodgers really only had a two-day break. They flew into oppressive heat and humidity in St. Louis on the third day, and they were immediately swept in a four-game series by the Cardinals. They never recovered the rest of the season.

This year, the Dodgers get a 3 1/2 day break. They don't open the second half until Friday. They'll fly late Thursday afternoon into Phoenix, where many players make their offseason home, and they will have a workout inside Chase Field before returning to action Friday.

"I think it will be good to have a few days off," said Matt Kemp, who will participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday, then start in Tuesday's All-Star Game. "We'll think about the first half and what we have to do to get better. We still have a long way to go. It was good to sweep San Diego. Now we have to come back and start from there."

NOTES, QUOTES
--LHP Ted Lilly ended the Dodgers' team scoreless inning streak at 29 innings when Padres C Rob Johnson led off the third inning Sunday with a solo home run. Lilly permitted one run on six baserunners in five innings. He earned his first win since June 11 at Colorado, when he also allowed one run in five innings.

--C Rod Barajas is expected to get activated from the disabled list when the Dodgers open the second half at Arizona on Friday. He completed his rehab assignment Sunday, and the training staff will put him through one last test during the team's workout Thursday. Barajas went 7-for-18 (.385) with a homer in four rehab games for high Class A Rancho Cucamonga.

--LHP Clayton Kershaw will start the opening game after the break, followed in order by RHP Hiroki Kuroda, LHP Ted Lilly, RHP Chad Billingsley and RHP Rubby De La Rosa. Kershaw will then get to pitch the sixth game after the break at San Francisco. Billingsley has good numbers in San Francisco, so that's why he's going in the fourth game on 10 days of rest. The Dodgers are trying to limit the innings of De La Rosa, who threw a career-high 110 a year ago in the minors.

--Kershaw leads the Majors with 147 strikeouts and could become the first Dodger to lead the Majors in first-half strikeouts since Ramon Martinez in 1990 (131 SO) if Detroit's Justin Verlander (138 SO) strikes out less than nine Royals this afternoon. Kershaw's 147 k's are the sixth-most all-time for a Los Angeles Dodger at the All-Star break behind Sandy Koufax (1962, 1963, 1965, 1966) and Bill Singer (1969).

--CF Matt Kemp (@TheRealMattKemp) will interact with fans on Twitter while participating in the Home Run Derby on Monday, using the hashtag #HRDerby. Kemp is the first Dodger in the Derby since Hee-Seop Choi in 2005. Kemp stole his 27th base in the third inning Sunday, the most for a Dodger at the break since Juan Pierre's 35 in 2008. --INF Juan Castro announced his retirement Sunday, and he will remain with the Dodgers organization as a special assistant to baseball operations and player development. Castro was signed out of Mexico over 20 years ago, and he batted .229 with 36 homers, 234 RBI and a .268 on-base percentage with five teams over 17 big-league seasons. He had three different stints with the Dodgers. --Los Angeles has been successful on 24 of its last 26 stolen base attempts and overall ranks third in the Majors with an 80.2 stolen base percentage (69 SB/17 CS) behind only Houston (82.4%) and Philadelphia (84.3%). Under the tutelage of baserunning coach Davey Lopes, the Dodgers currently possess the second-highest stolen base percentage in Los Angeles Dodgers history, behind only the 1962 Dodgers' 82.2 mark (198 SB/43 CS).

--Los Angeles leads the Majors with 37 stolen bases since June 10. Kemp is tied for fourth in the Majors with 27 steals and has been successful on 90% of his stolen base attempts this season. It's the most steals for a Dodger before the All-Star break since Juan Pierre's 35 in 2008 (Source: Stats, LLC).  

--Andre Ethier posted the 11th multi-homer game of his career (last: May 2, 2010 vs. Pittsburgh) with solo shots in the fifth and eighth innings. It was Ethier's first home run since a two-run shot on June 21 against the Tigers, a span of 15 games, and the second multi-home run game of the season for a Dodger (Kemp, June 4 at Cincinnati).  Ethier ended the Dodgers' 10-game homerless streak with the club's first home run since Aaron Miles' fifth-inning solo shot on June 28 at Minnesota. The Dodgers' 10-game home run drought was their longest since a 10-game stretch from July 6-12, 1992.   

The Dodgers had their Major League season-long scoreless innings streak snapped at 29.0 when Ted Lilly allowed a third-inning home run. That was the only run Lilly allowed in his 5.0 innings of work as he snapped a personal four-game losing streak and picked up his first win since June 11 at Colorado.   

--Kenley Jansen struck out three in 1.1 scoreless innings and has not allowed a run over 9.2 scoreless frames in eight appearances since being reinstated from the disabled list on June 18. Jansen averages 14.09 strikeouts per 9.0 innings (48 SO/30.2 IP), which rank among the league leaders.  

BY THE NUMBERS: 404
-- Plate appearances (over 10 games) between home runs by the Dodgers, from Aaron Miles in the fifth inning June 28 until Andre Ethier's in the fifth inning Sunday. That's the longest streak since a 10-game span from July 6-12, 1992 -- which included three doubleheaders against the Expos to make up games that were postponed because of rioting after the Rodney King verdict. It was Ethier's first home run in 18 games, and he added a second homer in the eighth inning.

QUOTE TO NOTE:
"It's always good when you can talk to a guy who was arguably the best hitter who ever played this game. You would have to be dumb if you don't listen to what he has to say. It was the same thing we had heard a million times, but you don't always get to hear it from a guy who has (3,141) hits. He played the game. He understands the game and knows how hard it is. He just said to relax and let the game come to you instead of trying to go get the game." -- C Dioner Navarro, on the hitters' meeting before the July 9 game that included a visit and speech from Tony Gwynn Sr. Oddly enough, after the meeting, the Dodgers had zero hits for 8 2/3 innings, then 3B Juan Uribe doubled, and Navarro singled to give Los Angeles a 1-0 win over San Diego.

*M*A*S*H* 4077 MEDICAL WATCH:
--3B Casey Blake (sore neck) went on the 15-day disabled list July 3. He had been playing through the ailment for several weeks. He could return in mid-July.

--C Rod Barajas (sprained right ankle) went on the 15-day disabled list June 19. He began a rehab assignment at Class A Rancho Cucamonga on July 7, and he is expected to be activated after the All-Star break.

--RHP Jonathan Broxton (bone bruise on right elbow) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 4. He threw a bullpen session June 7. He made rehab appearances on June 21 and 23 for Class AAA Albuquerque, but he felt tightness in his elbow when playing catch June 25. He was shut down from throwing until late July.

--RHP Jon Garland (right shoulder inflammation) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 2. He played catch June 21 but had to shut it down quickly. He will undergo season-ending surgery during the week of July 11-17.

--RHP Vicente Padilla (right radial nerve irritation) went on the 15-day disabled list May 14. He began a rehab assignment with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on May 29, but was shut down in early June due to a neck ailment. He underwent neck surgery June 16, and he will likely miss the rest of the season.

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