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Matt Kemp Punctuates MVP Season in Dodgers Victory

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Of course it was going to happen this way.

In his first four at-bats, Matt Kemp was close to getting the ball out of the park. Four fly balls yielded a career-high three doubles and an out, yet he was still stuck on 35 home runs.

Then in his final at-bat of the evening in the eighth inning facing starter-turned-reliever Barry Zito, Kemp finally did it launching a two-run homer 416 feet over the centerfield wall.

“He was unbelievable tonight,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “To see a night like that, it puts the exclamation mark on what he’s been doing for this organization all season long.”

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Chants of M-V-P filled the stadium, Kemp gave a curtain call to the crowd of 37,560 while his mother in town from Oklahoma watched from seats right next to the on-deck circle.

“I felt it tonight,” Kemp said about the vibe at the Stadium. “It was definitely one of those nights. I had my mom sitting there in the front row, so it was even more special. It was definitely a happy night.”

When asked to describe his season, Kemp gave me one word.

“Bittersweet. I definitely wish I could be doing this when we were winning at the same time. But it is what it is. I don’t regret anything that happened this season. Everything happens for a reason. But like I said we’re going to come back stronger next season.”

Of course it was going to happen this way.

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The Dodgers had Tommy Lasorda in the dugout during the game as an honorary coach for his 84th birthday. Lasorda threatened to be the de-facto manager much to the chagrin of the rotator cuffs of the bullpen. But there he stood at the edge of the dugout the entire game encouraging the team along to an 8-2 victory over the Giants.

“It was tough,” Lasorda admitted after the game. But he was thrilled he got his honorary 1,600th victory against the Giants.

“That’s right,” Lasorda said. “I told them we were going to eliminate them.” I’m still trying to figure out who the “them” was he was referring to. But who’s to argue with the man?

Hiroki Kuroda, in what would possibly be the last time he took the mound at Dodger Stadium, pitched an efficient seven innings giving up only two solo homers.

“He was sharp tonight,” Mattingly said. “The ball had good movement.”

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Kuroda wouldn’t say whether that was his final start in Los Angeles.

“At this moment I really don’t know,” Kuroda laughed. “It hasn’t entered my mind yet.”

He ended the season with a 13-16 record, the most wins in his four seasons with the Dodgers, and a 3.17 ERA, his lowest in his four seasons with the Dodgers.

Of course it was going to happen this way.

The Dodgers went to the NLCS two consecutive seasons and didn’t get season-long performances like these. But here the Dodgers have an awfully mediocre season and not only do they have their first 20-game winner since 1990 in Clayton Kershaw. But the Dodgers have an MVP in Matt Kemp.

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There are some sportswriters who will reduce this to semantics saying the MVP isn’t the best player, blah blah blah. I disagree. The MVP is the best player in the league, and no player is having a better offensive season than Matt Kemp.

He is on the verge of being the first Triple Crown winner in the National League since Joe Medwick of the 1937 St. Louis Cardinals and the first in all of baseball since Carl Yastrzemski of the 1967 Boston Red Sox. He trails Albert Pujols by one home run, trails Ryan Braun by .004 in batting average and leads the league in RBI with 118.

“It’s impressive,” Mattingly said. “You talk about a guy who’s a total package and showing it all. He’s been doing that all season long. You’re looking for a guy who’s the best player in the National League, you’ve got to look at Matt.”

Without Kershaw and Kemp, the Dodgers would be down with the Houston Astros suffering 100 losses.

I’m confident that Kershaw will win the Cy Young. I’m less sure Kemp will win the MVP. Awards or no, it doesn’t take away from the jaw-dropping wonder the two players have shown the 2,935,139 fans who came to Dodger Stadium. While it was the first time the Dodgers drew under three million in a non-strike year since 1992, it was still special to watch these two do what they did.

Toronto Blue Jays defeat LA Angels 4-3 (12).

TONIGHT’S ACTION

Oakland Athletics at LA Angels. 7:05 p.m. FSWest, AM 830 KLAA.

LA Dodgers at San Diego Padres. 7:05 p.m. FS Prime Ticket, AM 790 KABC.