LOS ANGELES -- One day after being limited to pinch-hitting duty by a tight left hamstring, All-Star center fielder Matt Kemp returned to the starting lineup for the Los Angeles Dodgers on Monday night and played a key role in a 9-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 43,713 at Dodger Stadium.
Kemp went 3-for-3 with an intentional walk, raising his average to a Ted Williams-like .406 before being double-switched out of the game to begin the eighth inning. Kemp's biggest hit of the evening was a leadoff double in the seventh that ignited a two-run, tiebreaking rally for the Dodgers, who improved to 19-10 for the season and their lead in the National League West to five games over the second-place Giants.
Highlight reel. In the game defensively for the first time after pinch hitting in the bottom of the seventh, James Loney celebrated his 28th birthday by making a truly spectacular and possibly game-saving (we'll never know) play at first base to end the top of the eighth. Loney went airborne to his left to take a sure double away from Hector Sanchez, then flipped the ball to Josh Lindblom covering. The play came with the Dodgers leading by three runs, but it also came with two Giants runners in scoring position, both of whom would have scored easily if the ball had gotten past Loney.
Rachel Robinson. No, Jackie's widow didn't throw out the first pitch, saying that with her 90th birthday looming in a couple of months, she doesn't do stuff like that anymore. But she did make a symbolic appearance, wearing a Dodgers jersey with her husband's familiar No. 42, during a pregame ceremony with Magic Johnson. And in a media session before that, she didn't mince words in expressing her less-than-flattering opinion about the Frank McCourt era.
Hands-off approach. With the game tied, runners on first and second, one out and Tony Gwynn on deck to pinch hit for Ted Lilly in the sixth, it had to be tempting for manager Don Mattingly to order light-hitting catcher A.J. Ellis to sacrifice the runners into scoring position. But, wisely as it turned out, Mattingly didn't put the bunt on, and Ellis responded by nailing the first pitch for a tiebreaking double into the rightfield corner, the key blow in a two-run inning for the Dodgers.
Loose webbing. Ellis, normally a defensive specialist, committed a passed ball for the third time in his past five starts, allowing Angel Pagan to advance into scoring position with two outs in the third. Fortunately for Ellis, Pagan was stranded at third, and none of those three passed balls has led to an unearned run against the Dodgers.
Double loose webbing. With two outs in the fifth, Dee Gordon committed two errors on the same play, bobbling a ground ball by Pagan and then making an ill-advised throw, way too late to get Pagan at first, that sailed 30 feet to the outfield side of the bag, allowing Pagan to take second. The Dodgers came close to a third error on the play, first baseman Juan Rivera running down the ball and then bouncing a throw past Gordon as Pagan slid into second, but Gordon ran it down quickly enough that Pagan didn't try for third.
Clutchless. The Dodgers went hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position through the first three innings, their lone run coming on a bases-loaded groundout by Rivera that would have been an inning-ending double play if he had hit it just a little harder. The Dodgers stranded five baserunners through three, four of them in scoring position.