After duel, Kemp's HR finishes Phils in 12th
Walk-off blast comes after Kershaw dazzles for eight innings
While it's still to be seen if a guy like that is added to the Dodgers, the current team already has a pair of players who fit that bill in Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp, and the two of them showed Wednesday afternoon in a 5-3 victory in 12 innings at Dodger Stadium that this group can still get it done on its own.
In a game that lasted nearly 4 1/2 hours, Kershaw tossed eight innings of one-run ball and Kemp launched a fastball into the stands with one out in the 12th inning to help the Dodgers avoid getting swept by the Phillies.
On Tuesday, manager Don Mattingly chalked up the Dodgers' recent struggles to losing the sorts of close games they were winning all season. Well, Wednesday's victory was that sort victory the team has been missing as Los Angeles fought back after giving up two runs in the top of the 10th.
"You come from behind and win a game and it's one of those that ends up being a nice win for your club," Mattingly said. "And you never know if this is the day that starts us rolling the ball in the right direction."
While the win sends the team off on a 10-game road trip with some momentum after four straight losses, there was some cause for concern with the bullpen and offense. Kenley Jansen gave the team a scare in the top of the ninth when he loaded the bases after getting the first two batters out and Javy Guerra coughed up two runs in the 10th.
Offensively, the Dodgers only managed two hits through the first eight innings, largely thanks to a shutdown performance by Cliff Lee, who countered Kershaw by giving up only one run in eight innings.
"We needed it," Kershaw said. "We needed a win. We'll take them any way we can get them right now. We battled all the way through, and Matt came up huge in the end. It's a testament."
Kershaw did his best to put the Dodgers in position to salvage a game from the Phillies. He struck out seven and only allowed one run on an RBI single by Carlos Ruiz in the fourth.
But aside from a solo home run by Juan Rivera in the second, the Dodgers couldn't string together any sort of offense themselves. That is until the ninth inning, when Wednesday's pitching duel turned into a nail-biter.
With Kershaw and Lee pulled for pinch-hitters, both teams' bullpens struggled out of the gate loading the bases in the top and bottom of the ninth inning. After each failed to capitalize on its own opportunity to score, the Phillies and Dodgers finally got a dose of clutch hitting in the 10th.
In his first game back from the bereavement list, Guerra surrendered two runs on a chopper hit by Hunter Pence that bounced over the head of Jerry Hairston at third base to give Philadelphia the lead.
However, the Dodgers fought back in the bottom half against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon when Luis Cruz led off the inning with a double and Bobby Abreu brought him home on a bloop single. A Tony Gwynn base hit put runners on the corners and Kemp delivered a game-tying single on a bang-bang play at first to beat out a throw from Jimmy Rollins.
"It's just one of those outings where you really can't do much about it," Papelbon said. "For the most part, I felt like I really made the pitches I wanted to make. Swinging bunts and bloop hits and infield hits and stuff like that, you can't really do much about them."
Kemp, who looked cautious at times in his first few games back from the disabled list, looked fast and healthy on the infield single that really tested out his hamstring.
"I feel really, really good," said Kemp, who missed 51 games while on the DL twice. "My legs are getting under me and I'm getting my timing back."
The infield single proved the first part and two innings later Kemp's no-doubt-about-it, walk-off home run proved the second.
"It felt good to help my team win," said Kemp, who was mobbed by teammates and tackled by catcher A.J. Ellis after rounding the bases. "It had been a while since I've played and it's always exciting to do that. It was a good time to do that at that moment."
Had the team not rallied against Papelbon and had Kemp not delivered the big blast, the joyous mood in the Dodgers' clubhouse would have been a lot different if Kershaw's gem had been squandered. But Los Angeles, which had lost 19 of its last 25 before Wednesday, has a win to be excited about for another day until the trade chatter starts up again.
"Hopefully we take this momentum into the East Coast and get this going again," said Kemp, who was still beaming from his sixth career walk-off homer.