The two best games of the year for the Dodgers both had the same ending. In fact, both pretty much followed the same script. That Matt Kemp ended Wednesday's game against the Phillies with a walk-off home run, just as he did on April 28 against Washington, is a big part of what makes them the two best games of the year.
"It's been a long time since I've played, and it always feels good to do that," Kemp said. "I think on every walk-off you feel good."
Before Wednesday Kemp's last home run came on April 30, just two days after his walk-off to beat the Nationals. Kemp went 72 plate appearances without a long ball in between. But perhaps more important was Kemp's infield single in the 10th inning, a ground ball to the hole at shortstop that saw Kemp test the left hamstring that caused him to miss 51 of 53 games before the All-Star break in two stints on the disabled list.
"Matt gets two big hits there. The one in the 10th was kind of cool because it was a ball he had to leg out a little bit," said manager Don Mattingly. "That last one was pretty monsterish."
Kemp has six walk-off home runs in his career, tied with Andre Ethier for most ever by a Los Angeles Dodger.
The game on April 28 was big because it featured the major league debut of 19-year old Bryce Harper, and then saw a fantastic pitching duel between Chad Billingsley and Stephen Strasburg, both of whom allowed one run in seven innings of work.
"Kershaw was good today. He's had a couple games like this, but he was really good today," Mattingly said. "You get him and Cliff going, and Cliff works so fast and uses so few pitches that it's almost contagious."
Both games saw the Dodgers fall behind by two runs late, in the ninth inning on April 28 then in the 10th inning on Wednesday. The Dodgers rallied for two runs on four hits against Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who was pitching for his third straight day and fourth in his last five.
"He was out there three days in a row so we knew he was a little bit worn down," said Mattingly.
Both April 28 and Wednesday saw a southpaw on the mound in the final inning, with Tom Gorzelanny on the hill for Washington and Jake Diekman for Philadelphia on Wednesday. Kemp had his way with both, part of his terrorizing left-handers all season. Kemp is hitting .477/.558/.932 in 52 plate appearances against southpaws this season, with six home runs.
Both Kemp home runs made winners of Jamey Wright, who pitched a scoreless inning in each contest.
All according to the script.
The Dodgers are off on Thursday, but open a 10-game road trip with a weekend series in New York against the Mets. Aaron Harang starts the weekend series opener on Friday, with Johan Santana taking the mound for New York.