While Matt Kemp and the NL-leading Los Angeles Dodgers enjoyed plenty of success in April, they closed the month with a bad taste in their mouths.
They could have difficulty opening May on a positive note if their recent efforts at Coors Field against the Colorado Rockies' Jhoulys Chacin are any indication.
The Dodgers send Ted Lilly to the hill opposite Chacin as these division rivals continue a three-game set Tuesday night.
Los Angeles saw its three-game winning streak come to an end with Monday's 6-2 loss at Colorado (11-11), going 1 for 7 with runners in scoring position and leaving 10 men on base. The Dodgers, though, still managed to conclude April with a 16-7 record - second-best in the majors behind Texas (17-6).
"It's way too early to be thinking anything other than we've got off to a good start," manager Don Mattingly said. "We played well. We've won some close games. We've showed some good things, but we've just to keep going."
The biggest reason for Los Angeles' success is Kemp, who hit his major league-leading 12th home run Monday - extending his club record for April. The All-Star center fielder also leads the majors with a .417 batting average and is tied for first in runs scored (24) and RBIs (25).
Kemp joins Barry Bonds, Larry Walker and Tony Perez as the only players in major league history to finish April with a .400 average, at least 10 homers and 20 RBIs.
"I'm just aware that we lost (Monday's) game," Kemp said. "I'm not really worried about historical, statistical - any of that. I'm just trying to help my team win as many games as I can and whatever happens, happens."
Kemp and the Dodgers now must try to bounce back against Chacin (0-2, 5.85 ERA).
While the Venezuelan right-hander's recent overall efforts have left much to be desired, he's 5-2 with a 1.57 ERA in his last seven matchups against the Dodgers. He has allowed eight hits over 15 scoreless innings in his last two home starts in this series.
No one in the majors has faced Chacin more than Kemp, who is just 4 for 26 (.154) in their matchups with a homer and eight strikeouts. Chacin has also had his way with Dodgers third baseman Juan Uribe, holding him hitless in 15 at_bats.
Chacin, though, has had a rough go of late, as his second-half woes from 2011 seem to have carried over into this season. He dropped to 3-12 over his last 20 starts dating to June after yielding five runs in five innings of Wednesday's 5-1 road loss in the back end of a doubleheader with Pittsburgh.
"I didn't do my job," he told the Rockies' official website. "I had 80-some pitches when I got to the fifth inning. I need to keep my pitch count down so I can throw more innings."
Lilly has been stellar since opening the season on the disabled list with neck stiffness, going 2-0 with a 0.90 ERA and a .138 opponent batting average. The left-hander had another terrific performance Wednesday but didn't get a decision in a 4-2 loss to Atlanta, giving up three hits over seven-innings of one-run ball.
Lilly is 8-1 with a 3.39 ERA in his last 11 starts against the Rockies. He's won four straight decisions against them overall, and is 2-0 with a 2.55 ERA in his last three trips to Colorado.
Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki is 4 for 26 with 10 strikeouts against Lilly. Dexter Fowler has also struggled (3 for 22), though Carlos Gonzalez is 6 for 15 with four homers.
Gonzalez went 2 for 3 with two runs scored and two RBIs in the series opener, continuing a recent surge. He's batting .423 with four homers and 13 RBIs in his last seven games.
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