Cubs ready for challenge against Dodgers

Cubs ready for challenge against Dodgers

Cubs ready for challenge against Dodgers
CINCINNATI -- Cubs manager Dale Sveum likes to study video and spray charts. The Cubs face the Dodgers and Matt Kemp starting Friday at Wrigley Field. Does Kemp have any holes in his swing to exploit?

"Make sure you don't throw any lefties [against him]," Sveum said of Kemp, who is hitting .533 off left-handers. "The guy, for a month now, has been about as good as you can be for a right-handed hitter, especially the power numbers he's putting up in that ballpark. They're phenomenal. You do your best to keep the ball in the ballpark."

Lefty Paul Maholm will have to deal with Kemp on Friday in the series opener. The Dodgers' center fielder is 4-for-12 off Maholm, with one double. Kemp leads the Major Leagues with 12 home runs and has 25 RBIs in 25 games. His teammate Andre Ethier also is off to a good start, with six homers and 27 RBIs.

"They're obviously one of the hottest teams in baseball," Sveum said. "When you have a one-two punch like Ethier and Kemp carrying them each and every night, it leads to a lot of wins, as well as a nice starting staff. Fifty RBIs coming out of two guys after a month is a lot. You're going to win a lot of games. Good teams have that 3-4-5 punch, that's tough to beat."

When Cubs infielder Blake DeWitt was on the Dodgers, he saw how good Kemp was up close.

"He's always had the tools and has always been a good player," DeWitt said Thursday. "He's put those tools together and he's making the most of his ability. It's definitely not surprising. He can do everything on the field -- there's nothing he can't do. I think everybody is seeing that now."

Kemp was named the National League Player of the Month for April. Some have joked that he's already wrapped up the NL MVP Award, too.

"He deserves the recognition he's gotten," DeWitt said. "As a player, it's fun to watch and see what he's doing that night. We all know how hard this game is, and when you're putting up numbers like that and making plays like that, it's fun. It's impressive."

The Cubs get a little break in that they won't have to deal with 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who is not starting in this series.

"It's nice whenever you can miss one of the top five pitchers in the game," Sveum said. "You've got to keep those two guys [Kemp and Ethier] from doing the big damage, and it's easier said than done."