Matt Kemp ended a long power drought and rescued the Dodgers from a sudden and unexpected abyss on Wednesday night, giving the team a 7-6 win over the Nationals in the second game of a doubleheader that was in many ways a microcosm of the Dodger season.
The Dodgers exploded for three runs in both the third and fourth innings, and Josh Beckett was cruising with a 6-0 lead.
The Dodgers scored so often that they got credit for a run they didn't even score. With two outs in the fourth inning, Kemp was running home on a ground ball to bobbled by third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. But Zimmerman was able to tag Adrian Gonzalez as he was awkwardly leaping by for the third out of the inning. Replays showed Kemp clearly not close to home when Gonzalez was tagged, but the Dodgers got credit for the run anyway.
Beckett pitched into the eighth inning, having only allowed two hits in his first seven innings.
But that's when it all unraveled.
Mike Morse led off the inning with a home run, which ended Beckett's shutout bid, but the score was still 6-1. Ian Desmond singled, then Steve Lombardozzi hit another home run, and suddenly it was 6-3. But Beckett's pitch count was low and he was allowed to stay in. He got Jesus Flores to ground out, then Corey Brown appeared to do the same but Gonzalez made an error, and Beckett's night was done.
Randy Choate, who had his seven-game appearance streak snapped in the opener of the doubleheader, allowed singles to both hitters he faced, including an RBI single by Bryce Harper to pull the Nats to within 6-4.
Enter Ronald Belisario, who promptly allowed a single to Danny Espinosa to load the bases. Tyler Moore struck out for the second out, but the nightmare inning culminated in another single, this one by Morse to bring home the tying runs.
But after the inning ended and deep breaths were taken, the game was still tied. And like so many other times in recent days, the Dodgers had the heart of their batting order due up in the ninth.
Kemp hadn't homered since September 2, and had a span of 55 plate appearances without one. He seemed to have put a good swing on the ball in the ninth inning of Game 1, but he hit it off the end of the bat and the ball died in left field, nowhere close to a home run.
Facing Tyler Clippard yet again, that was not the case in the ninth inning of Game 2. Kemp deposited a ball into the seats in center field, giving the Dodgers a 7-6 lead and more importantly, giving them hope.
Kemp entered the day with six hits in his last 53 at-bats (.113) since running into the center field wall in Denver, but he was 3-for-8 with a pair of walks on Wednesday.
Was it a turning point for the Dodgers? I don't know, but it was a win that was sorely needed.
Belisario, who allowed two inherited runners to score, picked up the vulture win. Brandon League pitched a perfect ninth inning for his third save as a Dodger. The Dodgers ended their night down two games to St. Louis, with 13 games to play.
Luis Cruz doubled twice in the first game of the doubleheader, then hit another two-bagger in the second inning. It was the 19th double of the season for Cruz, which tied him with Matt Kemp for second most on the team. What is amazing about that is that Cruz has played in just 65 games. Among major league players with at least 100 plate appearances this year, Cruz hit doubles at the eighth fastest pace in baseball.
|Fewest PA Per Double, 2012 MLB|
|Minimum 100 PA|
Game 2 Particulars
Home Runs: Matt Kemp (19); Michael Morse (14), Steve Lombardozzi (3)
WP - Ronald Belisario (7-1): 2/3 IP, 2 hits, 1 strikeout
LP - Tyler Clippard (2-5): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 1 strikeout
Sv - Brandon League (12): 1 IP, 1 strikeout