Ethier being Ethier means three homers

Bad things don't come in threes for the Dodgers. Good things certainly do.

Nearly halfway into the season, the team with the best record in baseball still hasn't lost three consecutive games. Andre Ethier made sure of it Friday night at Dodger Stadium with the first three-homer game of his career in the Dodgers' 8-2 triumph over the Seattle Mariners.

Ethier hit his 12th, 13th and 14th homers and drove in a career-high six runs, becoming the first Dodger to hit three homers in a game since Hee-Seop Choi on June 12, 2005.

Ethier was mobbed by teammates in the dugout and took a curtain call after his third homer, a towering solo blast to right field against reliever Miguel Batista in the eighth inning.

"It's definitely something I never dreamed about before, one of those unlikely things," said Ethier, who had never accomplished the feat at any level.

He hit a three-run homer against Seattle starter Jason Vargas (3-3) in the second inning and added a two-run shot against Roy Corcoran in the sixth. He grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the fourth.

Clayton Kershaw pitched six strong innings to help the Dodgers set a modern franchise record by going 74 games into a season without losing three straight.

"There's no question if you go the rest of the year without losing three in a row, you'll be in good shape," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.

But the only team in the major leagues to avoid three straight defeats has a long way to go to catch the 2001 Mariners, who set the modern-era record by not losing three straight before their 147th, 148th and 149th games.

Torre attributed the Dodgers' ability to avoid prolonged losing streaks to a stout bullpen and a penchant for winning close games.

Ethier made sure Friday's game didn't fit into that category with his fifth multi-homer game of the season, all at Dodger Stadium. He still has more than half a season to catch Adrian Beltre, who set the Los Angeles franchise record with seven multi- homer games in 2004.

"That's the guy we all knew was in there," Torre said of Ethier.

Ethier credited his power surge to hitting coach Don Mattingly, who helps him relax at the plate.

"Some of it's mental, pressing too much and not going up there and relaxing, having fun," Ethier said.

Casey Blake also homered and Matt Kemp, who changed his walk-up music to Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" as a tribute to the late pop icon, legged out a triple in the fifth. After easing up as he approached second base, Kemp took off for third when he noticed that center fielder Franklin Gutierrez had made a casual toss back toward the infield.

Kemp scored when Kershaw reached out and poked a single to left-center for his first career RBI.

Kershaw (5-5) was also plenty effective on the mound, giving up five hits and two runs. He had eight strikeouts and one walk.

After three perfect innings, the left-hander wobbled a bit in the fourth. Ichiro Suzuki and Russell Branyan led off with consecutive singles, and Suzuki came around to score one out later on Jose Lopez's single up the middle that ended Kershaw's 15 2/3 -inning scoreless streak.

A walk to Gutierrez loaded the bases for Kenji Johjima, who grounded into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.

Torre pulled Kershaw after he gave up a second run in the sixth, with Guillermo Mota and Ronald Belisario combining on three innings of scoreless relief.

Kershaw was just glad he didn't have to face Ethier.

"He's so tough," Kershaw said. "When he's hot there's no right way to pitch to him. Maybe walking him is the best idea."

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ben.bolch@latimes.com

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