Don Mattingly on Matt Kemp double switch: 'It's just a baseball move'

Both ends of the spectum met on Saturday. - Stephen Dunn

After hitting .260/.318/.344 with one home run in April, Matt Kemp is hitting .262/.308/.345 with one home run in May.

The struggles for Matt Kemp continued on Saturday. The Dodgers beat the Cardinals 5-3, but Kemp wasn't around for the end of it by manager Don Mattingly's decision, and Kemp when he was in the game was roundly booed by the Dodger Stadium faithful.

Kemp came to bat with runners in scoring position three times on Saturday, and he left them stranded each time with two strikeouts and a ground out. Each time, Kemp was booed by a vocal portion of the 49,368 at Dodger Stadium.

Kemp was removed from the game on a double switch with two outs in the seventh inning with the Dodgers clinging to a one-run lead. Skip Schumaker came into the game in center field, and Kenley Jansen was in to pitch. Mattingly wanted Jansen to both finish the seventh and pitch the eighth inning, so a double switch was in order, especially with the pitcher's spot due up second in the bottom of the inning.

Mattingly's options were to remove Kemp, who made the last out of the inning, or two remove third baseman Nick Punto, due up sixth in the bottom of the eighth.

"It's tough because you don't ever want to switch one of your guys out. I don't like switching Matt out or Adrian out, but it was the only move I felt like I had there. I had to get one plus out of Kenley," Mattingly said. "We knew they would have not pitched to Carl Crawford there and forced me to do something. It was nothing more than a baseball move."

Kemp was upset upon his removal and was shouting in the dugout. He said he wasn't shouting at Mattingly, but rather just shouting in general, upset at his own play.

"I was just frustrated," Kemp said. "It was a bad day for me."

Mattingly said he wasn't aware of any Kemp anger towards him, and said he understood the general frustration of his center fielder.

"Guys don't like coming out. I understand that," Mattingly said. "I know Matt is frustrated with things but there was nothing personal there. I love Matt. It was a baseball move. I try to make baseball moves all the time."

Mattingly even went so far as to say he would have done the same move if he had the healthy Matt Kemp from early 2012, which seems like a stretch.

"At that point I have no choice. If I go to Punto, it's six hitters away with Kenley hitting. Then I have a pitcher hitting with runners in scoring position," Mattingly said. "This has nothing to do with Matt struggling. This was a baseball move."

As for the booing, Kemp shrugged it off.

"It is what is it," Kemp said. "That's how they feel. Booing. Let them do what they want to do."

First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who heard cheers on Saturday as he reached base five times and drove in three of the Dodgers' five runs, knows what Kemp is going through.

"Kemp's never a guy who should be booed. He's trying his heart out. He shows up early, he works. He hits early. He's struggling," Gonzalez said. "Kemp cares more than anybody I've ever known. He's an incredible competitor. He's trying his heart out for the fans and he wants to do more himself. He's not trying to make outs.

"I've been in those situations where you're pressing and your hands just don't go when you want them to go, and you put yourself in two-strike situations. He's one of the best players in the league, so he'll get out of it."

Up next

The Dodgers try to capture the series on Sunday afternoon and send their best to the mound in Clayton Kershaw. Sunday is one of the best matchups of young pitchers in baseball this season, with the 25-year-old Kershaw hosting 22-year-old Shelby Miller.

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