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Kemp clobbers pinch-hit walk-off blast for Astros

@brianmctaggart
April 27, 2019

HOUSTON -- The goal for Tony Kemp was to get on base and to try to spark a rally. The last thing he could have imagined was sparking a celebration at home plate. Kemp turned on a 2-1 sinker from Indians reliever Adam Cimber and sent it 360 feet down

HOUSTON -- The goal for Tony Kemp was to get on base and to try to spark a rally. The last thing he could have imagined was sparking a celebration at home plate.

Kemp turned on a 2-1 sinker from Indians reliever Adam Cimber and sent it 360 feet down the right-field line for a pinch-hit, walk-off homer to lead off the 10th inning and send the Astros to a 4-3 win over the Indians on Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.

“I was looking for a walk there, but I’ll take a home run,” said Kemp, who slugged the first pinch-hit walk-off homer by an Astros player since Brian Bogusevic beat the Cubs with a grand slam on Aug. 16, 2011.

“He gets frustrated with himself when he doesn’t get on base, but who needs a walk when you can hit a homer?” Astros manager AJ Hinch said. “What a huge time to do it.”

Kemp was told when Astros reliever Roberto Osuna, who threw two innings for the win, was heading back out for the 10th inning of a 3-3 game, that he was going to pinch-hit for Max Stassi to start the bottom of the inning. Cimber, a right-handed sidearmer, presented a tough matchup, and Kemp was the only left-handed hitter still on the Astros’ bench.

“I went down [in the tunnel] and saw some video on him and just tried to see his release point,” Kemp said. “After he got to 2-1 and had missed with a backdoor slider, I was looking for a heater right there and just trying to put it in play and it went over the fence.”

The homer snapped the Astros’ two-game losing streak against the Indians and broke Kemp’s 0-for-12 slump. His batting average had dipped to .143 before he connected in the 10th.

“This is a game of failure,” he said. “They don’t call it a game of success. You’re going to go through times like this, you’re going to hit the ball hard right at people and sometimes the things you’re going through doesn’t show in the boxscore. But mentally, you've just got to keep grinding each day, and we have a good core group of guys here that battle their butts off each day. It’s cool to be a part of this team.”

The personable Kemp is one of the most popular players in the clubhouse. Led by Carlos Correa, who hit a two-run, go-ahead homer in the sixth, Kemp’s teammates mobbed him at home plate at the end of his trot.

“I think that’s the first [walk-off home run] of my career, even Minors or Major Leagues,” Kemp said. “To be greeted by Correa right there up front means a lot. He had a big game. To get the win and have a chance to split the series tomorrow is big for us.”

Kemp’s opportunities to play have been inconsistent -- he’s started 10 of Houston’s first 27 games -- but he understands that the role of primary bench players demands readiness.

“We know we could be called on at any time to pinch-run or pinch-hit,” he said. “This is a great team and we try to contribute any way we can, and I helped out today.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.