Matt Kemp tends to feast on the San Francisco Giants' pitching.
Another slow start from Tim Lincecum may just be what the Los Angeles Dodgers slugger needs to keep that going.
Kemp seeks another strong effort at the plate Wednesday night when the Dodgers face the struggling Lincecum and the Giants in the finale of this series at Chavez Ravine.
Kemp is hitting .386 with four homers and 11 RBIs over the past 20 meetings with San Francisco (15-15), including a .500 average while connecting for four home runs and nine RBIs in 11 home games.
That success has continued in this series, as he returned to the lineup after tightness in his left hamstring reduced him to pinch-hitting duties Sunday. He returned in strong fashion Monday, collecting three hits with a walk and one run in a 9-1 victory in the opener of this three-game set. On Tuesday, Kemp had another base hit and an intentional walk in Tuesday's 2-1 defeat.
Manager Don Mattingly, though, isn't ruling out resting Kemp to make sure he's as close to 100 percent as possible.
"I'm just making sure we're smart, because it's better not to have him one day or two days compared to 15 or 20 days," Mattingly told the team's official website. "The DL screws you up. You're out two weeks, that doesn't mean you come back where you left off. You take 10 days, it's a mystery with what you're going to get when he comes back."
Having Kemp is a big reason the Dodgers (19-11) are tied with St. Louis for the NL's best record. He's among baseball's leaders with a .404 average, 12 homers, 27 RBIs and a 1.305 OPS.
Those numbers may only get better against Lincecum (2-2, 5.68 ERA), against whom Kemp went 7 for 14 last year.
Lincecum, though, is enduring a difficult 2012 so far, and much of that has to do with struggles early. The hard-throwing right-hander has surrendered 12 of 20 earned runs in the first innings of his six starts, and opponents are hitting .370 in that opening frame.
Those issues - along with his control problems - were prevalent again in Friday's 6-4 loss to Milwaukee. He allowed three runs - all in the first - and two hits with four walks, one hit batter and four strikeouts in five innings.
"I'm happy with the way I was able to come out of it, but giving up three at the beginning of the game in the first inning, that's no way to put your team in a position to win," Lincecum told the team's official website. "I definitely take a lot of responsibility for this game, as I should.
"As starters we're supposed to go deep into games and I really haven't with the exception of one game."
Lincecum couldn't take too much of the blame for his 0-3 record in five starts against Los Angeles last season, as he compiled a 1.83 ERA while getting one or no runs in four of those outings and six overall.
The Giants are hitting .209 in this series, and have been held to two or fewer runs in four of the past five games at Dodger Stadium.
Chad Billingsley (2-2, 3.19) will try to take advantage of those struggling bats and re-establish his success against San Francisco. The right-hander has won five of his last seven home starts versus the NL West rival, compiling a 1.73 ERA. However, he was charged with a loss in the most recent outing May 19, allowing three runs with four walks and two hit batters in six innings.
Billingsley enters this matchup 0-2 with a 4.84 ERA in his last four starts, surrendering four runs in six innings of Friday's 5-4 defeat at Chicago.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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