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Kershaw strikes out nine over seven strong

When the Dodgers and Nationals meet this weekend for three games in Los Angeles, they'll do so as surprise first-place teams, battling for the best record in the National League.

The Dodgers are off to a 13-6 start, right on the heels of 14-4 Washington, which faces San Diego on Thursday night before heading north.

"You learn a little bit more about your club and the talent you've got," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said of facing the Dodgers. "You're going up against the best, or a club that's playing the best. I'm looking forward to that."

On Friday, reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw gets the ball for the Dodgers, opposed by fellow southpaw Ross Detwiler, who's off to a hot start at 2-0 with a 0.56 ERA.

Kershaw has posted some pretty solid numbers, too. He's 1-0 with a 1.61 ERA. For opposing hitters, perhaps the scariest part of those numbers is the way manager Don Mattingly reacted to being asked whether Kershaw has reached his peak.

"I don't think Kersh is where he wants to be yet," Mattingly said. "He's been pretty good, but he hasn't quite been what you would consider midseason form. ... We're not sitting here complaining, but I don't think he's been quite right yet and where he wants to be."

Mattingly has been getting the majority of his offensive production from two hitters -- Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, who are 1-2 in baseball in RBIs. But Mattingly has stressed the importance of production coming from elsewhere.

"For me, it's having that big two -- two guys in the order that you can build around," Mattingly said. "Then you've got to get guys to get on base for them. We've got to be able to generate. We've got two pretty good players. You can build around them."

In the series opener, the Dodgers will face Detwiler, who has gone 16 innings in his three starts this year and has allowed just one run. The 26-year-old hasn't thrown more than 81 pitches in a game this season.

On Friday against the Marlins, the left-hander got his second win of the season, tossing six innings and giving up only three hits. He also struck out seven and walked only one.

Nationals: Zimmerman to see specialist
Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman attempted to take some swings on Thursday but felt the same pain in his right shoulder that has kept him out of the lineup since Saturday. And with the team headed to Los Angeles for a weekend series with the Dodgers, Zimmerman will visit a physician at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopedic Clinic and likely receive another cortisone shot in the affected area.

Johnson said the team would prefer to wait to see how a second treatment works before putting Zimmerman on the disabled list.

"I think our doctors feel like [the DL is] probably the best course to ensure that he recovers," Johnson said. "But, we're in the season. If he's going to be better, two days after the treatment or something. We'll just have to wait and see after tomorrow."

Dodgers: Rivera improving
Left fielder Juan Rivera showed improvement Wednesday from a strained left hamstring he suffered running out an infield single on Tuesday.

He was out of the lineup for Wednesday night's 4-2 loss to Atlanta but took batting practice. It's unlikely Rivera will be placed on the disabled list, Mattingly said.

"He was getting tonight off anyway after playing five or six straight, and Sue [Falsone, trainer] said he was able to do more than she thought he would," said Mattingly before Wednesday's game. "He's day to day. If it lingers, we'll think about doing something different."

• With his 10th homer of the season on Wednesday night, Matt Kemp tied Gary Sheffield for the most home runs by a Dodgers player in April. Sheffield accomplished the feat in 2000.

• Ron Cey holds the club record with 29 RBIs in a month. With four games left, Kemp (23) and Ethier (22) are hot on his trail.

Worth noting
• The Nationals have only taken a season series against the Dodgers one time -- in 2005, their first season in Washington. In total, the Dodgers own a 24-17 edge over the Nationals since the move to the capital.

• The Dodgers have won four of six series this season, but all four series wins have come against teams that finished below .500 in 2011. Against Milwaukee and Atlanta, two clubs that won 96 and 89 games, respectively, the Dodgers are 2-4.

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