Andre Ethier hasn’t exactly killed left-handed pitching this season, but he is showing signs of improving the area of his game that has always been the weak spot.
Ethier came up with a clutch RBI single off lefty Scott Rice in the eighth inning of a 3-2 Dodgers win over the New York Mets at Citi Field on Thursday. That saved the Dodgers the embarrassment of what was a brutal offensive performance for most of the game.
Ethier is batting .264 against lefties this season and .211 against righties.
A two-run eighth sent the Dodgers home after a 3-3 road trip to Baltimore and New York, but it came too late to get lefty Ryu Hyun-Jin his third win. Ryu pitched seven strong innings, allowing just three hits and striking out eight batters.
“He really used his changeup very effectively. His slider is very good," Mets manager Terry Collins said of Ryu when speaking to reporters afterward. "We had a couple of opportunities and we couldn’t push anything over.”
The Dodgers struggled against one of the toughest pitchers in the league, Matt Harvey, on Wednesday and followed that up with an anemic performance against one of the league’s worst-performing pitchers Thursday. In his first four games, Mets starter Jeremy Hefner, 27, had a 1.786 WHIP and had allowed a league-high seven home runs. He entered Thursday with a 5.35 career ERA.
Only two Dodgers made any headway against Hefner. Juan Uribe had three walks and Matt Kemp had two of the Dodgers’ three hits off him.
Kemp has had more hits on this six-game road trip than he had in the first 15 games of the Dodgers’ season. His rebirth started slowly, with some soft hits in Baltimore, but he seems to have regained his stroke. He homered for the first time Wednesday and was 2-for-3 with a run scored and RBI Thursday.
Kemp made a poor base running decision in the seventh inning, when he attempted to tag up and advance on Ethier’s fly ball to right field. Marlon Byrd threw Kemp out by about six feet.
With Brandon League struggling, Kenley Jansen’s performance will raise the question of who should be the Dodgers’ closer. Jansen allowed the first two batters to reach base in the eighth inning, but got out of the jam. He struck out Byrd with a letter-high 95-mph fastball to end it.
League blew his first save Wednesday and allowed a solo home run to Ike Davis leading off the ninth Thursday. He got through the inning without further trouble while picking up his sixth save.