The Los Angeles Dodgers' hold on the NL West lead is about to be challenged directly by their closest pursuer.
For now, they'll try to at least maintain their advantage behind Dan Haren.With a key three-game series against the San Francisco Giants looming, Haren goes for another strong performance as the Dodgers attempt to bounce back from a loss against the San Diego Padres on Wednesday night.Los Angeles (82-63) leads the West by 2 1/2 games over San Francisco with the rivals set for three games at AT&T Park this weekend before another three-game set at Dodger Stadium from Sept. 22-24.The division leaders will be trying to rebound after their four-game win streak was snapped with Tuesday's 6-3 loss to San Diego (67-77).Haren (12-10, 4.17 ERA) looks to continue his impressive run and improve to 5-1 in his last seven starts. The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.04 ERA in six outings after losing five straight with a 10.03 ERA while failing to complete six innings in any of those games."I've got four starts left here and I need to make them as good as I can for the team," Haren said. "We've got to win these."He's been especially sharp in his past three starts, improving to 2-0 with a 0.95 ERA in that span after limiting Arizona to one run and four hits over six innings of a 2-1 win Friday. That came a week after he allowed a pair of unearned runs in six innings of a 3-2 loss in 12 at San Diego.Haren was charged with a 6-3 loss in his only meeting with the Padres at Chavez Ravine on July 11, giving up four runs in four-plus innings.Matt Kemp extended the longest hitting streak in the majors to 16 games with a double Tuesday. He's batting .339 with four homers and 13 RBIs over that stretch, which includes going 7 for 21 with four doubles against San Diego.Adrian Gonzalez is also seeing the ball well, hitting .375 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 15 games. The first baseman went deep Tuesday and is 8 for 23 in five games against the Padres during that time after batting .149 (7 for 47) in the first 13 matchups.Tuesday's win ended a six-game losing streak for San Diego, which matched its highest run total in over two weeks.Ian Kennedy (10-12, 3.75) will be seeking his first win against the Dodgers in two years. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.91 ERA in eight starts against Los Angeles since a victory with Arizona on Sept. 11, 2012.He pitched well enough to win in his most recent meeting with them Aug. 30, yielding one run and four hits in seven innings of a 2-1 win in 10 at home.Kennedy, though, followed that up five days later by surrendering four runs in the first three innings before settling down and leaving with one out in the sixth of a 5-1 defeat to the Diamondbacks.Kennedy has done an excellent job keeping Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig in check, with the two going a combined 6 for 40 lifetime. Carl Crawford, though, is 9 for 26 and Andre Ethier is 11 for 34 with two homers.