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Kouzmanoff hits early stride

Kouzmanoff hits early stride

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SAN DIEGO -- Forget those April showers for Kevin Kouzmanoff.

The Padres third baseman entered Sunday's game with the Dodgers with the National League's longest hitting streak, having hit safely in each of the first six games. He was batting .320 with a home run and three RBIs.

Though the streak was snapped on Sunday, he did drive in his fourth run of the season with a sacrifice fly, matching his total for the entire month of April last year. In fact, Kouzmanoff started last season batting .113 (8-for-71) with two doubles, one homer and four RBIs for April.

Kouzmanoff found his stride during a career-high eight-game hitting streak in May in which he batted .420 (13-for-25) with four doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs.

But Kouzmanoff has settled in from the beginning, coming off a solid Spring Training in which he batted .298 (14-for-47) with three homers and seven RBIs in 16 games.

"Last year I think I had a little extra pressure on myself, trying to do too much, and trying to hit every pitch I saw," said Kouzmanoff. "And this year I feel a little bit more comfortable, a little more confident.

"Last year, with the trade [from Cleveland], I didn't know anyone, and they didn't know who I was. That was a different environment. But I think this year I feel a little more comfortable, and a little more patient with things."

Kouzmanoff has batted both third and cleanup in the lineup, but he doesn't care where he bats.

"Whether you bat first or third or eighth, I think you're still trying to get a good pitch to hit, you're still trying to hit it hard," he said. "When you hit in the middle of the order, if there are guys on the bases, you want to get them in."

Asked about the chants of "Kooooz" whenever he comes to plate, he said, "It's cool. It's cool that a lot of the fans out there are chanting my name. It feels good that they are behind me and they are supporting me and the Padres. It definitely makes things a little bit easier."

Sandy Burgin is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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