Kemp homers twice as LA wins fourth straight
Puig goes 4-for-5, flirts with cycle on night Vin says he's in for '15
LOS ANGELES -- The 49,630 fans at Dodger Stadium stood -- many turning toward the broadcast booth -- and showered Vin Scully with applause. The 86-year-old legend waved and smiled, soaking in the response to the news that he would return for his 66th season as a Dodgers broadcaster.
It was just the middle of the second inning of the Dodgers' 8-4 win against the Braves on Tuesday night. Manager Don Mattingly joked the only thing the video board announcement was missing was an appearance from the celebratory bubble machine in the home dugout.
It was a moment even the players took time to appreciate.
"He's the Dodgers," right fielder Matt Kemp said. "He's the Dodgers' voice. He's the man."
It took some time to get going, but eventually Kemp and the Dodgers would give the Hall of Fame broadcaster the kind of celebration he deserved.
In the Dodgers' first home game since the All-Star break, fans were treated with a near natural cycle by center fielder Yasiel Puig and -- the knockout punch -- a pair of two-run home runs off the bat of Kemp.
The second shot -- a rocket over the center-field wall in the seventh inning -- gave the Dodgers a decisive 7-4 lead over the Braves. Kemp trotted in a near hop around the basepaths, pointing to exuberant fans on his way toward the dugout.
The win was the Dodgers' fourth in a row -- remarkably, the first time they've accomplished that feat this season. With a Giants loss, it also gave Los Angeles a season-high three-game lead in the National League West.
"I think we're all in a groove right now," Kemp said. "We're playing good baseball. We went into San Francisco and swept a good Giants team, and then we came back tonight and beat another good Atlanta team. I think our confidence is high.
"We'd had talks where we think every night it could be somebody different. One night, it could be Puig, one night it could be Hanley [Ramirez], Adrian [Gonzalez], [Carl Crawford], Dee [Gordon] -- we got a stacked lineup."
On Tuesday night, it was essentially all of the above. Puig went 4-for-5 and scored two runs, Gonzalez went 3-for-5 with two RBI doubles, Crawford added two RBIs, and Kemp, of course, supplied the two biggest hits of all.
"The two home runs by Matt -- he gives us a lead there in the second inning. I obviously couldn't hold it, but he comes back and hits another one. It's big. It's a real character-building thing," said right-hander Josh Beckett, who threatened to squash the mood early with his second poor showing since coming off the disabled list on July 22.
Pitching through a left hip impingement, Beckett struggled to command the strike zone. He labored through a 27-pitch first inning, allowing B.J. Upton to score on a sacrifice fly from his brother, Justin Upton.
Beckett gave up four runs on nine hits and four walks in 4 1/3 innings. One inning after Kemp produced a 2-1 lead with his first two-run home run of the evening, Beckett coughed up a two-run shot to first baseman Freddie Freeman -- giving back the lead. Beckett's night ended when shortstop Andrelton Simmons knocked an RBI double to give the Braves a 4-2 lead in the fifth inning.
But the Dodgers fought right back. Puig, who had singled and doubled, respectively, in his first two at-bats, tripled with one out in the fifth off Braves starter Aaron Harang, scoring on a Gonzalez double. Crawford tied the game two batters later with an RBI single to right.
In the seventh, Puig struck again -- though not with the home run he needed for a natural cycle. Instead, he reached on an infield single to third base, kick-starting a three-run rally against reliever Anthony Varvaro.
"I don't think I've seen him make an out," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Maybe, when he comes up I'll come hide here in the locker room so that maybe he'll make an out. He's energized right now and he's swinging the bat well."
Puig came around to score from third on a Crawford groundout later in the inning. Kemp then delivered the home run to center field, all but sealing the victory for the Dodgers.
"Matt came through real big for us today," Crawford said. "Josh struggled, and we picked him up. And those are the things we have to do to be a winning team."
Fans entered Tuesday night's game receiving Vin Scully Talking Microphones. They roared when his 2015 return was announced. Tuesday was a time to celebrate the broadcaster, and then -- just like the catchphrase programmed into that microphone -- it was time for Dodger baseball.