NEW YORK -- Revitalized by a trade and energized by a dedicated offseason program that reshaped his frame, Matt Kemp has spent the early days of this season providing indication he is indeed capable of picking up where he left off last year, when he fueled the Braves' late-season surge."That's
NEW YORK -- Revitalized by a trade and energized by a dedicated offseason program that reshaped his frame, Matt Kemp has spent the early days of this season providing indication he is indeed capable of picking up where he left off last year, when he fueled the Braves' late-season surge.
"That's the plan for all of us," Kemp said after delivering the game-winning double in Wednesday's 3-1, 12-inning win over the Mets at Citi Field. "We just want to come out hot like we did the last couple months of the season and try to let everybody know these games they play against us aren't going to be easy."
There has been nothing easy about these first two games for the Braves, who have already had to face the dominant Mets duo of Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. But after seeing their bullpen endure an ugly seventh inning in Monday's Opening Day loss, the visitors preserved Wednesday's strong pitching performance courtesy of the latest of Kemp's four doubles this season.
After seeing his first two doubles within this extra-inning win go to waste, Kemp made the most of the opportunity when the Mets intentionally walked Freddie Freeman to load the bases with two outs in the 12th. Kemp made New York reliever Rafael Montero pay by lacing his third double of the night into the left-field corner.
"It can be a lose-lose in that situation," Kemp said. "You've got Freddie, me, [Nick Markakis], [Brandon Phillips]. The lineup is extended, especially with Phillips and [Adonis Garcia]. So for us, if it happens you've got to try to come up with one of those hits."
It wasn't necessarily clear what the Braves were getting when they acquired Kemp in exchange for Hector Olivera's unwanted contract July 30. Yeah, the former National League MVP Award candidate had continued to show some power in San Diego, but the move to Atlanta and the chance to play for the team he followed throughout his childhood has invigorated the 32-year-old outfielder.
"Matt Kemp is a great hitter and he always has been," said Braves starter Bartolo Colon, who allowed one run over six innings. "You can always differentiate the guys at the end of the season because they're the ones that are still hitting and still doing well. Matt Kemp is one of those guys and that's what you saw last season."
Kemp concluded last year's 35-homer season by producing a .855 OPS and 120 Weighted Runs Created Plus over 56 games with the Braves. He returned to this year's Spring Training with a more defined frame and the determination he still has the potential to be one of the game's top offensive performers.
"Matt has been great from the get-go with how he came to camp," Braves manager Brian Snitker said after Kemp's game-winning, two-run double. "That's why he's hitting cleanup. If they want to pitch around Freddie, that's OK. He got big hits for us last year and he's our guy."
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.