Sunday, October 5, 2014

Kemp's redemption hits new heights in Game 2

After blowing another lead in the NLDS, the Dodgers needed a hero to emerge to avoid the dreaded 0-2 hole heading to St. Louis.

Enter Matt Kemp.

Kemp delivered the big blow when a demoralized Dodgers team needed it the most, as his eighth inning solo shot proved to be the game-winner, lifting the Dodgers to a 1-1 series tie with a 3-2 victory in Game 2.

For all of the injuries, trade talk, and generally poor performance on the field since that magnificent 2011 season, Game 2 of the NLDS showed just how much of an impact Kemp can still make when he's feeling right.  And guess what?  It looks like he's FINALLY feeling right.

People tend to forgot just how good he was to start the 2012 season, fresh off of being robbed of the MVP award by Ryan Fraud... I mean Braun.  In that April, he hit a ridiculous .417 with 12 homers and 25 RBIs, and far and away looked like the best player on the planet.

Then the injuries hit.  And with that came more injuries, frustration, and little results on the field.

It's certainly been a long journey for the guy nicknamed "Beast Mode," as through May of this season he was only hitting .248 with five homers and 15 RBIs.  He got booted from center field in favor of Andre Ethier, who was just as bad a hitter at the time, if not worse.

After a stint in left field, Don Mattingly settled on Yasiel Puig in center, a returning Carl Crawford in left, and Kemp over to right.  Simply put, it worked.  All three men looked comfortable, and Kemp seemed to finally find a spot where he looked natural at this point in his career.

His play in the field carried over to the plate, where he hit .309 with 17 homers and 54 RBIs after the All-Star break.  He quietly went about his business in the second half, regaining his power stroke as the Dodgers held off the Giants in the NL West.

I think it was perfectly fitting that Kemp was the guy to make be the difference in Game 2.  Just when J.P. Howell gave up a two-run shot to Matt Carpenter (who completely owns the Dodgers for whatever reason), Kemp led off the bottom of the eighth by depositing a 2-1 pitch deep into left off of All-Star reliever Pat Neshek.  A deflated Dodger Stadium came back to life.  A 1-2-3 ninth from Kenley Jansen kept them happy.

Good for Kemp, as he took flak from just every baseball writer in America for already looking washed up.  His bat has forced his way back into the lineup everyday, as Mattingly doesn't have to worry about playing the numbers game and possibly putting in Ethier or Scott Van Slyke over him.  He's the cleanup hitter, and hopefully it stays that way.

Now the Dodgers need him to carry that hot bat into St. Louis and at least earn a split.  With the way he's raking, that's looking like a pretty good bet.

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