Heading into Thursday's action, only four teammate combinations in history had outproduced Ethier and Kemp in their first 12 games. Kemp homered and Ethier singled in a run on Thursday to keep that trend alive. Kemp, in fact, now has seven home runs in his first 13 games, one more than he had in April 2011 en route to a 39-homer season.
"Just the way Kemp has been playing, everything is coming pretty easy to him, and he's real comfortable there and he's off to a real hot start," said J.A. Happ, who'll start for Houston on Friday. "He definitely has a ton of plate coverage and that makes it tough. We're going to have to see what we can do to keep him off balance."
The Dodgers have followed that duo's lead, but they'll be looking to reset their trajectory on Friday. Los Angeles went 1-2 against Milwaukee over the last three days, with one of those losses coming in extra innings. Houston, meanwhile, went into Thursday's finale against Washington having lost four straight and seven of its last eight.
Los Angeles will hand the ball to southpaw Ted Lilly in Friday's opener, and the left-hander will be matched against fellow southpaw J.A. Happ. Lilly, 7-3 with a 2.64 ERA for his career against the Astros, started the year on the disabled list with a stiff neck, but he recovered and threw seven shutout innings against San Diego in his season debut.
Happ has completed at least six innings in his two starts this season, and he held the opposition to three earned runs or fewer in both of them. He went 6-15 as a starter last season and is trying to prove he can remain in the rotation. The Astros have scored at least four runs six times this season, including the two games started by Happ.
"I felt pretty good for the most part," Happ said of his last start. "There were a few times I struggled to get the ball down, and then I was able to make adjustments and hit the spot, especially in a few key situations. That was good, definitely."
The Dodgers are 6-0 at home this season versus 4-3 on the road, and they'll begin a six-game homestand as soon as they finish against the Astros. They'll hand the ball to Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley for the final two games of the series; the Astros will counter with Kyle Weiland and Wandy Rodriguez.
Dodgers: Gordon fulfills team's need for speed
Though shortstop Dee Gordon was caught stealing in his lone attempt on Thursday, he has proven to be one of the game's most dynamic speed threats. Gordon has eight steals in 10 attempts this season, and through the first 69 games of his career, he has more stolen bases (32) than any other player in the Dodgers' rich franchise history.
Gordon went 0-for-4 in Thursday's victory, and just two of his first 10 hits have gone for extra bases. He has, however, already showed improvement in controlling the strike zone. Last year the speedster walked just seven times in his first 56 big league games, and he has drawn four walks in his first 13 games this season.
Astros: Altuve continues to ascend
Jose Altuve is still streaking. The diminutive second baseman was one of the big surprises last season, and he's kept up the pace by reaching base safely in 10 of his first 12 games this season. Altuve, like Gordon, has shown an improved ability to draw walks, and he already has just two fewer (three) than he did last year.
Altuve, Houston's Minor League Player of the Year in 2011, already has seven multihit games this season. The 21-year-old has split time evenly between the No. 2 and 8 slots in the batting order, and he's enjoyed success in both. He is batting .375 as the team's second hitter and .333 when he hits eighth.Worth noting
Kemp and Ethier are tied for the second-highest RBI total in franchise history for the first 12 games of the season, behind Hall of Famer Roy Campanella (19).
The Dodgers have gotten the best of the Astros in the season series in each of the last two seasons. .
The Astros will wear Colt .45s jerseys in Friday's game against the Dodgers, something the team is doing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the organization.