Dodgers back home, in search of offense from middle men

Harry How

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers come home leading the majors in both wins and continents played on, and will try for their seventh consecutive home opener win on Friday afternoon against the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers have won their last six home openers by a combined score of 33-8, with four of those wins against San Francisco. The last loss in such games came on April 9, 2007, when Jeff Francis and the Rockies won at Dodger Stadium, 6-3.

The Dodgers have won four of their first five games in 2014 and have scored first in every game so far — their leads have been 3-0, 7-0, 1-0, 3-0 and 3-0 — but still haven't gotten much from the heart of their batting order.

Hanley Ramirez is 2-for-19 (.105), and his two-run double on Wednesday in San Diego were his first two RBI of the year. Adrian Gonzalez is 2-for-17 (.118) with a double, and though he hit a few balls hard felt first hand the park effects of Petco Park. Andre Ethier, who has batted fifth in the four games against right-handers, is 4-for-19 (.211).

In addition to the small sample size caveats that apply, manager Don Mattingly doesn't sound worried about the middle of his lineup.

"If our problem is Hanley and Adrian and Andre, we're going to be fine. If those are the guys that aren't hitting, at some point they're going to hit. Everything they've done their whole career tells you they will hit," Mattingly said. "Those are the guys you aren't really concerned about. You keep taking your chances with those guys and feel like they are going to come through."

The Giants will start Ryan Vogelsong, who the Dodgers touched up for 10 runs in 10⅔ innings in a pair of starts in 2013, but San Francisco managed to win both games. Against the middle-of-the-order trio of Dodgers the right-hander has had success in his career. Ethier is 4-for-16 (.250) with two doubles against Vogelsong, but Ramirez is 1-for-12 (.083) with a walk and Gonzalez is 1-for-6 (.167).

But that middle of the order is expected to be augmented by Matt Kemp, eligible to come off the disabled list on Friday and by all accounts, is ready to go.

Kemp is 6-for-20 (.300) with a home run, a triple and two walks against Vogelsong. In case you were wondering, Carl Crawford is 1-for-3 against the right-hander and Yasiel Puig has never faced him.

Ethier was asked to compare this year's heart of the lineup with the 2009 squad, which included Kemp, Ethier and Manny Ramirez. In 2009 the Dodgers scored 4.81 runs per game, fourth in the National League. The team hasn't finished higher than seventh in the league in scoring since, and so far in 2014 is averaging 3.8 runs per contest.

"Me and Matt were real young and still pretty fresh in the game, with a lot to learn, not too many games under our belt yet," Ethier recalled. "Compared to the middle of our lineup now, the one difference is a lot of experience and games played all the way from the two to the six or seven-hole."

That lineup, along with starting pitcher Hyun-jin Ryu, will try to keep alive a streak that began with the 2008 home opener, also against the Giants.

Game info

Time: 1:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA

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