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LAD@HOU: Kemp collects three hits and two RBIs

HOUSTON -- The Dodgers one-two punch of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier kept right on punching Friday night.

Kemp hit a two-run homer in the first inning, his Major League leading eighth of the season, and Ethier drove in Los Angeles' other run in a 3-1 victory over the Houston Astros.

Kemp never made an out, adding two singles and a walk, to raise his Ted Williams-esque batting average to .481.

"When you're playing well and winning games, it's an unbelievable feeling," Kemp said.

"He's been amazing," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We're going to ride it. It's crazy. I've never seen anybody like this this early. It's his swing. If he doesn't reach there's nowhere to get him out.

"Him and Andre both. You talk about Matt so much because he's way up there. But Andre's right there driving in runs."

Ethier singled in Mark Ellis with two outs in the third inning to stake the Dodgers to a 3-0 lead, all that starter Ted Lilly and the bullpen would need.

Ethier and Kemp began the game tied for the NL lead in RBIs with 18.

"Andre driving in that run with two outs is a big ribbie for us," Mattingly said. "Those two together have been pretty special."

Mattingly compared Kemp and Ethier with Boston's Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder.

"Matt came to me in Spring Training and said we're going to have to be the guys in the middle of the lineup to get things going," Ethier said. "If we get going good, we should be a pretty good offense. I'm just trying to keep pace with him. It's a tough act to follow. I get one of the best seats in the house to [watch Kemp hit]. I have to back him up and keep getting him pitches to hit."

"We're having fun," Kemp added. "[Getting two runs in the first] definitely makes the pitcher feel more comfortable, makes him a little more loose when you have the lead.

"Whenever I haven't been able to drive in runs, [Ethier] picks me up. I feel really good right now. It definitely helps when I have a guy like Dre hitting behind me. They don't want to put me on base because they know he's going to drive me in. I've got to give some credit to him."

Justin Sellers led off the game with a walk for the Dodgers and one out later Kemp hit a 367-foot homer to right field.

"It was frustrating," said Houston starter J.A. Happ said. "He's a guy you don't want to let beat you and he did just that tonight. For him, that was probably a bad pitch. Anybody else maybe not so bad. It was definitely frustrating. He's a heck of a hitter there."

Lilly worked six innings, yielding only four hits and one run. He struck out five and walked six. He allowed his first earned run of the season in the fourth when Houston's Brian Bogusevic singled with two outs, stole second and scored on catcher Chris Snyder's single.

"He was just nitpicking," said J.D. Martinez, the No. 3 hitter in the Houston lineup. "I felt like he didn't make a lot of mistakes. At least to me, he didn't miss any middle. He would just go low and away, low and in, corner, up and away, and he just really didn't give you anything to hit."

"He was really sharp [tonight]," Mattingly said of Lilly. "The zone seemed pretty stiff for both sides. Teddy seemed to be right on the edges. He was done [after six innings]. I was starting to kick myself [for not pulling him] in the fifth."

Lilly wasn't as impressed with himself as Mattingly.

"The results were a lot better than I threw the ball," he said. "Fortunately, I was able to get out of some jams. There were some really nice defensive plays made behind me to help us out of some tough spots."

Despite walking six, Lilly had no complaints with home plate umpire Tom Hallion, the crew chief.

"I heard that from a couple of guys in the dugout," Lilly said. "It maybe looked like some of those pitches were strikes. All night he only missed one pitch I thought was a strike. That's pretty good. Those were close, but I don't think they were strikes. He called the game the way it should be called."

The Dodger bullpen was no less than brilliant.

Josh Lindblom, Kenley Jansen and closer Javy Guerra each threw an inning, combining for five strikeouts and only one single. No Astro reached second base against them.

Guerra earned his seventh save and second in two days. He needed only 10 pitches to close out the Astros in the ninth.

"Anytime you'd rather not have to leave the bullpen with nine outs to get," Lilly said. "I do feel with a bullpen like this, more times than not our pen is going to take care of it. We're pretty deep. It's nice for the starters to know our pen is pretty strong."

Jansen walked the first batter he faced in the eighth, then struck out the next three hitters.

"Kenley always makes me nervous when he first comes out," Mattingly said. "He doesn't seem to turn it loose right away. Early he always gives me a scare."

"I got a little wild in the beginning, then kind of settled in and focused and just kept working from there," Jansen said. "I know myself and know what I've got, so I just stay confident. That's what I've got to keep doing.

"It's really fun (to be part of this bullpen), especially with close games, how we shut them down and help the team to win. We understand that's the fun part of it. We have that confidence. There's a lot of good pitchers out there in the bullpen."

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