NEW YORK -- Matt Kemp was supposed to get Saturday night off.
Instead, he blew open an 8-3 Dodgers win over the Mets with a grand slam that will only bolster his chances to return to the All-Star Game and reinforce his candidacy for early MVP discussion.
"I pick my spots," manager Dave Roberts said about his strategic use of Kemp in a five-run eighth inning after turning his best hitter into a spectator for most of the night.
Kemp had to share the storyline for the Dodgers' 14th win in 19 June games. There was the rusty-but-healthy three-inning return from the disabled list by Clayton Kershaw, rookie Caleb Ferguson's first Major League victory with four shutout innings of relief, Player Page for Max Muncy's club-high 14th homer and a two-run pinch-hit double by Chris Taylor, who hadn't played since his left hamstring tightened on Wednesday.
But Kemp gave New York voters something to think about. The home run off Robert Gsellman was Kemp's 13th of the season, his eighth career grand slam and seventh as a Dodger. That trails only Gil Hodges (14), Carl Furillo (eight) and Mike Piazza (eight) on the all-time franchise list.
Grand slams mean 40% off pizza
It was the Dodgers' first pinch-hit grand slam since Manny Ramirez on his Bobblehead Night, July 22, 2009 and their second grand slam in as many nights (Cody Bellinger). Kemp also has a team-high 47 RBIs.
Compare that to last year, when Kemp hit 19 homers with 64 RBIs in an injury-shortened season that led to his salary swap to the Dodgers and a remarkable career turnaround.
"He threw me a fastball inside and I fouled it off and he doubled up and he left something up and I just hit it hard," said Kemp, who preferred to talk about the pressure performance of Ferguson.
"He did a great job, getting out of the tough situations says a lot about him," Kemp said. "We were all happy for him."
Kemp hinted that the appeal of his one-game suspension for mixing it up with Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos after a plate collision and getting ejected June 13 might be resolved on Sunday.
"I don't know. We'll see tomorrow," he said. "I'm not worried. We'll see what happens."
Roberts said before the game he was giving Kemp a break, but what better time to give him a break than when he's in a 1-for-15 mini-slump and the opposing pitcher is Jacob deGrom, with the league's lowest ERA?
The Dodgers already had a two-run lead when Kemp homered on Muncy's solo shot, Taylor's two-run double and a squeeze bunt by Enrique Hernandez that scored Bellinger. Bellinger opened the eighth inning with a base hit and hustled to third on Yasiel Puig's bloop single, on which Puig was thrown out at second. Yasmani Grandal was intentionally walked and Hernandez put down his bunt and was safe at first. Chase Utley singled off Gsellman to load the bases for Kemp.
Ferguson got the win, escaping jams with the tying run in scoring position in three different innings. He struck out six in his fourth appearance.
"It's a good trend that each time he's been out there, the stuff keeps getting better and he's handling himself considerably better," said Roberts. "There was some stress out there and he made pitches and trusted the fastball. His ability with the breaking ball was as good as we've seen it. He was attacking."
It was Ferguson's first relief appearance, although he knew his assignment was to piggyback a short Kershaw start. He'll have the same duty the next time Kershaw starts this coming Thursday or Friday, Roberts said.
"It's something for him to grow on, that his pregame can be amended and he can be successful," said Roberts.
The Dodgers have won 11 straight games over the Mets, outscoring them 83-23, and are 25-10 in their last 35 games together. They've beaten the Mets by at least three runs in nine straight, the first time they've done that against any opponent, according to STATS.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Bellinger looked lost on Brandon Nimmo's triple that sailed past him for a seventh-inning triple and he still was mystified an hour later in the clubhouse.
"I've never seen a ball just cut like that," said the first baseman-turned-center fielder. "I thought I was going to catch it. And I wasn't even close. I had no idea what happened."
Ferguson stranded Nimmo by striking out Todd Frazier and getting Asdrubal Cabrera on a ground out.
HE SAID IT
"I found out Friday. I didn't have much time to think about it. I was asking the guys in here if I should go throw. How do you do things out of the bullpen?" -- Ferguson, on learning he would be relieving
Rich Hill faces the Mets in the trip finale, starting at 10:10 a.m. PT. Hill came off the disabled list at Wrigley Field with a vengeance, limiting the Cubs to three hits over six scoreless innings in his first legitimate start in six weeks, with no blister issues. Jason Vargas, the Mets' scheduled starter, was scratched Saturday night, with a replacement remaining to be determined.