Locked-in Loney enjoying hot June

Locked-in Loney enjoying hot June

CINCINNATI -- For James Loney, it was a matter of focus. After he got that part down, it was smooth sailing.

The Dodgers first baseman has been one of the few bright spots in a lineup that has struggled mightily to put runs on the board this season. He's hitting .296 with four doubles and a triple in the month of June and has hit safely in 18 of his last 19 starts.

Loney's average was at .275 at the end of May after peaking at .295 in the middle of the month.

The reason for the dip?

"I think it's just focusing, seeing good pitches and now overswinging," said Loney, who went 1-for-3 with a walk in Tuesday's series opener. "Before, if I'd get in a hitter's count, I'd try to expect a perfect pitch that I could hit. I would not always get it, but I'd always be swinging.

"I would think, 'Come on, he's got to come with something in the strike zone.' I'd try and anticipate instead of just reacting right away."

Since then, though, Loney has practiced better discipline at the plate. He doesn't play a guessing game with pitchers and try to anticipate the pitch -- he just waits until it's actually thrown.

"I just figured it out," Loney said. "I know what pitches I'm swinging at. I'd know whether I should have or should have not swung at them. You want to keep it up, obviously. I know last weekend we hit some balls pretty hard, and hopefully, everybody starts following along."

Pitching matchup
LAD: RHP Derek Lowe (5-6, 4.03 ERA)
Lowe pitched well enough to win in his Michigan homecoming last time out, but he lost again. In his six defeats, the Dodgers have scored a total of seven runs. He allowed the Tigers two earned runs in seven innings, struck out five without a walk and threw 121 pitches. His sinker has been sharp in five consecutive quality starts, but he has only two victories to show for it. He was moved up to start Wednesday after Hiroki Kuroda was sent home from Cincinnati with soreness in his right shoulder.

CIN: RHP Aaron Harang (3-9, 4.10 ERA)
Harang followed up one of his worst outings of the season with one of his best in a win over the Red Sox on Friday night. Harang pitched seven innings and gave up just one run on four hits with no walks and seven strikeouts. He had been winless in his previous five starts. Harang is 2-3 with a 4.13 ERA lifetime through five games against the Dodgers. He was 1-0 in one start against them last season, in which he gave up just four hits with no earned runs in eight innings of work.

The Dodgers are 5-9 in Chad Billingsley's 14 starts. ... Jeff Kent is batting .309 in his career against Cincinnati. ... Surgery does not appear an option for Rafael Furcal, Dodgers manager Joe Torre said Thursday. The shortstop, who's missed 37 games with soreness in his lower back, made 30 throws two days ago but is not ready to begin baseball activity and will likely be out until after the All-Star break, Torre said. ... Andruw Jones will likely begin a rehab assignment after the Dodgers return home from their road trip, Torre said. The outfielder has missed 23 games with a right knee injury.

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Up next
• Thursday: Dodgers (Derek Lowe, 4-6, 4.03) at Reds (Aaron Harang, 3-9, 4.10), 9:35 a.m. PT
• Friday: Dodgers (Brad Penny, 5-9, 5.88) vs. Indians (Cliff Lee, 10-1, 2.55), 7:40 p.m. PT
• Saturday: Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw, 0-1, 3.75) vs. Indians (C.C. Sabathia, 5-8, 4.26), 12:55 p.m. PT

Brandon Harris is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.