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06/04/10 1:47 AM ET

Kershaw looking to derail rolling Braves

Clayton Kershaw's stock is on the rise. Atlanta's Kenshin Kawakami has nowhere to go but up.

Their progress will be on display when the Dodgers and the hot-hitting Braves square off in the second game of the series Friday at Dodger Stadium.

Atlanta is riding a nine-game winning streak and sports a 19-5 record in its last 24 games.

"We have a streak; [pitching's] the reason we're in first place," Braves catcher Brian McCann said. "Now we're getting everything. We've been swinging the bats really well the last few weeks, the last month, and we're playing good baseball."

Kawakami is hoping to keep the streak alive. He has pitched well his last three outings, all quality starts, but he has no wins and one loss to show for them. After becoming the first Braves pitcher since 1985 to lose his first seven starts to begin a season, Kawakami look poised to earn his first victory of the year against the Pirates on Sunday but again left with a no-decision.

"He's pitched good. Ground-ball outs, strikeouts," manager Bobby Cox said.

Kawakami allowed four hits and three walks in seven scoreless innings in his only career start against Kershaw and the Dodgers last season. He didn't factor in the decision of Atlanta's 2-1 victory.

Kawakami hasn't won since last Aug. 31.

"Baseball is baseball," he said. "There will be misses of opportunity. But that's just baseball."

As for Kershaw, he has already come a long way in two short months. His ERA going into May 9 was 4.99 but he's lowered it to 2.95, and through his last start, the Texan had turned in four straight quality starts.

"The defense picked me up," Kershaw said after his last start, a 5-3 victory against the Rockies. "I can't say enough about them. As for me, the first inning was kind of rough, but I made an adjustment and after that it was all right. I was able to get down in the zone and make better pitches."

Kershaw struck out 10 batters the last time he took the mound opposite Kawakami. He went seven scoreless innings and allowed two hits and one walk in Atlanta's victory.

Braves: Saito pulls hamstring
Takashi Saito retired the first two batters in the ninth before injuring his left hamstring. "He's been awesome -- any kind of rest at all, he's been just lights-out. He pulled a hamstring and I don't know how long [he will be out]," Cox said. ... Martin Prado extended his hit streak to eight games with a leadoff double Thursday night. ... National League Player of the Month Troy Glaus extended his hit streak to nine games with an RBI single that scored Prado in the first inning.

Dodgers: Bullpen a big relief
The bullpen has not allowed an earned run in 20 innings over the last five games. Dodgers relievers have limited opponents to a .167 (11-for-66) average during that span. ... Casey Blake was scratched from the original starting lineup for Thursday night's game with Atlanta because of back spasms. ... Vicente Padilla and George Sherrill completed rehab assignments Thursday with Class A Inland Empire against High Desert. Padilla threw 37 pitches in his first rehab start, allowing one hit and striking out five in three scoreless innings. Sherrill needed eight pitches to strike out two in his perfect inning of relief.

Worth noting
On Thursday, Andre Ethier went 2-for-4 with a double for his first multihit game and first extra-base hit since returning from the disabled list on Monday. Ethier's 16 multihit games are tied for second on the club and his 12 doubles are tied for third on the team. ... Nate McLouth snapped an 0-for-10 stretch with his RBI double in the fourth inning Thursday, his first hit since Saturday against Pittsburgh.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.