Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Matt Kemp has an MVP moment
By Mark Saxon
Matt Kemp's first-inning three-run homer Wednesday allowed the Dodgers to play free and easy again.
LOS ANGELES -- When Matt Kemp batted in the fifth inning Wednesday night, fans at Dodger Stadium serenaded him with the now-familiar "M-V-P! M-V-P!" chant.
Probably not going to happen, folks.
Kemp might have gotten robbed by Ryan Braun last year, but this year his own body cost him. Players who miss nearly one-third of the season because of injuries typically don't get much play in the MVP discussion.
But if the Dodgers manage to push their way into the postseason with an offense that -- when Kemp isn't hitting -- is about as scary as a Labrador retriever puppy, who really cares about a trophy anyway? It will be all the same to Dodgers fans.
At a most valuable moment, Kemp came through again. The Colorado Rockies came in with a pitching staff that was held together with bubble gum and tape -- just four healthy starters and a small army of middle relievers being called on to get about 15 outs a night. The Dodgers' sputtering offense had made them look like the 1969 New York Mets for two nights.
So, when Chad Billingsley put the Dodgers in a 2-0 hole in the top of the first inning Wednesday, the atmosphere wasn't exactly joyful and light at Dodger Stadium.
But great players can change an entire city's mood, and Kemp energized this fan base in the first inning by launching a Jeff Francis changeup into the left-field bleachers for a three-run home run that allowed the Dodgers to play free and easy again, the way they did when they were the best team in baseball back in April.
Before that swing, the Dodgers had scored one run the previous two nights against a pair of Colorado pitchers with 5.00-plus ERAs who didn't throw a pitch as late as the fifth inning.
"That's a huge hit," manager Don Mattingly said. "That kind of thing builds. You know, zero, zero, zero, then all of a sudden it just kind of keeps going. Matt's hit was huge."
You can see an offense faintly starting to form, through the mist. Shane Victorino is doing his thing again, annoying the other team and scooting all over the place when he gets on base. Hanley Ramirez gives the lineup a little more heft even if he hasn't exactly been swinging a torrid bat in L.A. Several regulars have a knack for getting on base.
But it's still really about one guy. When Kemp is dangerous, the Dodgers are dangerous. When he's not, this team is capable of putting 50,000 people into a trance that lasts nine innings and about 3 1/2 hours.
Kemp, you can tell, feels this burden, and, for the most part, he shoulders it diligently.
"I haven't really been hitting too well with runners in scoring position the last couple days and I needed to do something," Kemp said. "I finally did something to help us get the momentum going."