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Kemp Punctuates Pitching Duel with Walkoff

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Pitch after pitch, zeroes after zeroes, it really was a shame the game had to end. On this warm Sunday afternoon both starters dominated the opposition inning after inning. When it came down to the battle of the bullpens, the St. Louis Cardinals struck first but the Dodgers and Matt Kemp had the last laugh walking off to a 2-1 victory in the bottom of the ninth.

“Well it’s one way to turn the page,” manager Don Mattingly said.

Chad Billingsley came out first for the Dodgers. Groundout to short by Ryan Theriot, strikeout to Colby Rasmus, flyball to right by Albert Pujols.

Chris Carpenter countered by getting Tony Gwynn, Jr. to ground to second, Jamey Carroll to ground to short and Andre Ethier to fly out to center.

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And back and forth it went for seven innings with Billingsley only giving up a double, a single and a walk to Matt Holliday and a walk to Carpenter. Carpenter meanwhile gave up base hits from the second inning to the sixth inning.

“[Billingsley] was great today,” Mattingly remarked. “I kept letting him go, and he was clean all day.”

It all seemed to fall apart in the top of the eighth inning through no fault of Billingsley. A lazy fly ball hit to right field by Yadier Molina got Ethier crossed up.

“I overplayed it,” Ethier said. “I had a tough angle and got over there quick. I saw Matt and [Aaron] Miles break hard. I broke hard.”

Molina ended up on second base and reach third on Daniel Descalso’s sacrifice bunt - runner on third with one out. Billingsley didn’t sweat it. All he did was strike out pinch hitter Jon Jay, his 11th of the game, and allowed Ethier to redeem himself on a fly ball hit by Ryan Theriot.

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Crisis averted, scoreless tie remained.

“Runner on third with less than two outs, you’ve got to really bear down,” Billingsley said. “You’ve got to try to get a strikeout or with the infield in get a ground ball.”

After Mitchell Boggs retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth, Jonathan Broxton came in the ninth inning and seemed to cruise after striking out Rasmus and getting Pujols to line out to short. But he gave up a double to Holliday, intentionally walked the scalding hot Lance Berkman and gave up that RBI single to David Freese who had struck out in his previous three at-bats.

But with the hottest hitters for the Dodgers leading off the bottom of the ninth in Ethier and Kemp, it seemed like for once in this four-game series good fortune came to the aid of the Dodgers.

Ethier laced the first pitch down the right field line for stand-up double off of reliever Trever Miller. Up went Kemp, out went Miller, in went closer Ryan Franklin and out went a 2-2 pitch over the centerfield wall.

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With that Ethier extended his hitting streak to 14 games and Kemp improved his batting average to a Major League-best .474.

“I knew I hit it really really good, but the wind was blowing the ball every which way,” Kemp said. “I guess I hit it hard enough to go over the fence.”

While Mattingly was jubilant for the homer, there was some amusement for him.

“It’s funny because Matt looked over to me and wanted to know if I wanted him to bunt for a hit,” Mattingly said.

Is that so?

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“I’m just trying to tie the game up,” Kemp laughed. “Trying to do whatever it takes to help the team at least go into extra innings or get the win the game.”

Are you serious?

“Yeah. They got a pretty good bullpen. We’ve got to chip away. We’ve got to make it a game.”

Broxton (W, 1-0) despite giving up a run got a win while Franklin (L, 0-2) took the loss. And against a team that outhit them 48-27 over the last three games, Billingsley and Broxton held them to only four hits.

In the end one thing won out as Kemp exclaimed: “Beast mode.”