Will Matt Kemp's Return Revive the Dodger Bats?
With the Dodgers managing only three hits off of Cubs starter Travis Wood while Clayton Kershaw was the pitcher of record, maybe the impending return for Matt Kemp to the Dodger lineup can't be a moment too soon.
For the first time Matt Kemp was seen before batting practice running the bases at full speed. "I thought it went good," Kemp said. "I was a little skeptical, but it turned out to be really really good."
"I was scared. Not scared, but just a little hesitant. Getting out there running for the first time, you don't know what to expect. You don't know what it's going to feel like or how on certain cuts how you're going to respond.
"It actually went better than I thought it would go."
Manager Don Mattingly didn't want to get too excited about what the future holds. The only thing he would say with any certainty: "If he goes good today, he'll run tomorrow, then we'll see."
Among the possibilities is Kemp seeing some game action with Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Thursday as the best case scenario. One thing is certain: Kemp desperately wants to play and play in centerfield.
"I'm a centerfielder," Kemp defiantly said. "That's my role — to play centerfield everyday. I want to play everyday. I don't like sitting out games. I like to play and give my team a chance to win. I feel like I can do that."
When pressed on if he's worried about not playing everyday, Kemp would not give in. "I'm not worried about that. I'm just worried about getting out there playing and helping my team win."
Perhaps Kemp's bat could have been used as the Dodgers lost to the Cubs 3-2. For the second straight start Kershaw was fighting his fastball command.
"It was a battle," Kershaw admitted. "I didn't have great stuff tonight. But you're going to have days like that."
Not helping his cause was the catcher's inference in the second inning during Darwin Barney's plate appearance with one out and opposing starter Travis Wood on first. Dioner Navarro's single gave the Cubs the 1-0 lead, an unearned run on Kershaw's tally.
However Kershaw got in trouble in the sixth inning that was lead off by Cody Ransom's line drive that hit Kershaw right above his left ankle. While the soldout crowd of 52,326 gasped in horror and held their breath, Kershaw shook it off needing only one practice pitch to send the staff back into the dugout.
"I feel fine," Kershaw said.
Kershaw walked Darnell McDonald and after striking out Cole Gillespie and Wood, he gave up a single to Starlin Castro that scored Ransom. That ended Kershaw's streak of two games without an earned runs. It also ended Kershaw's outing, 107 pitches in 5 2/3 innings. The last time Kershaw did not go at least six innings was on Apr. 23 at Citi Field against the Mets.
"Unfortunately I couldn't go deeper in the game for our guys," Kershaw said. "I was just trying to limit the damage."
And here is where I inject the proceedings with some perspective. Despite this being a subpar start for Kershaw, he lowered his ERA from 1.7244 to 1.7206. Still, it's not what we're used to seeing.
"He wasn't quite as sharp as he's been," Mattingly said. "He had been battling all day. It seemed like it was a fight every inning almost."
The Cubs added a run in the seventh inning off of Ronald Belisario.
Mattingly didn't seem too fazed by the muted offense against Wood.
"I thought our guys were okay with him," Mattingly said. "I didn't feel like we were just up there wailing. We were trying to get to him and start whittling away. We just couldn't break through tonight."
Even this prolonged slump the team seems to be in isn't keeping Mattingly up at night. "I think we've got some guys who are tired," Mattingly said noting that the national games over the weekend required abnormal start times. "We'll be fine."
Cubs Scorecard: (click to embiggen)
Dodgers Scorecard: (click to embiggen)