The Dodgers started their opening day lineup (sans Luis Cruz, of course) for the first time all season on Sunday, and the results were better than could have possibly been expected. Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez led the offensive outburst to back a typically stellar Clayton Kershaw in a 9-2 win over the Nationals and a series sweep.
Though the win may have been marred by a potential injury in an otherwise meaningless situation. Kemp didn't run home on a bases loaded ground ball in a 9-2 game in the top of the ninth inning that would have been a single, but Kemp was forced at home plate, and in his haste to try to reach home safely appeared to twist his ankle at the plate.
We will have to wait for more news postgame on the extent of Kemp's injury.
The three straight wins gave the Dodgers 20 wins in their last 25 games, their best 25-game streak since July 3-30, 2004. It also pulled the Dodgers even with the Diamondbacks for first place in the National League West at 50-47. Whether the Dodgers remain in first place depends on what happens at AT&T Park on Sunday afternoon between Arizona and San Francisco.
Kemp was activated from the disabled list before Sunday's game, missing the minimum 15 days, and his left shoulder looked just fine. Kemp crushed a hanger from Jordan Zimmermann well into the left field seats to lead off the second inning for a quick 1-0 lead, but the Dodgers weren't done.
Hanley Ramirez broke the game open with a three-run home run in the second inning for a 6-0 lead, and Kemp double home another run in his second at-bat of the inning. Six hits and two walks against Zimmermann in the inning produced seven runs, matching the Dodgers' season high for a single inning.
Zimmermann entered Sunday at 9-0 with a 1.75 ERA in 11 home starts this season and hadn't lost a start at Nationals Park since May 17, 2012. But against the Dodgers he was only able to last two innings and was done after allowing eight hits and two walks.
Kershaw, meanwhile, lasted a tad longer.
Home runs by Jayson Werth, in the second inning and the seventh inning, were the only hits allowed by Kershaw .... He struck out nine and walked none in his seven innings, and his major league leading ERA rose to 2.01. But that was more than enough for Kershaw to earn his ninth win of the season.
- Kershaw lasted at least seven innings for the fifth straight start and last at least six innings for his 16th consecutive start.
- Kemp has three home runs in his last four games.
- Ramirez went 2-for-4 for his 14th multi-hit game in his last 29 games. He is hitting .431 (47-for-109) during that span.
- Mark Ellis was 3-for-5 on Sunday, his third straight start at second base, and during the series was 6-for-11.
- Carl Crawford was 3-for-5 with a double and a walk on Sunday and is 4-for-7 since his 2-for-30 slump.
- Brandon League pitched the final two innings and retired six of nine batters faced, and even had his first major league plate appearance. League, who appeared to have no intention of swinging the bat, was walked by Fernando Abad on six pitches. Even League was surprised:
The Dodgers take a brief respite from beating National League teams to head to Toronto, where they will test their putrid record in American League parks against the Blue Jays. Hyun-jin Ryu starts the opener for the Dodgers on Monday night at Rogers Centre, while Josh Johnson starts for Toronto against a Dodgers team actually built to utilize a designated hitter.
Home runs: Matt Kemp (5), Hanley Ramirez (10); Jayson Werth 2 (12)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (9-6): 7 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 9 strikeouts
LP - Jordan Zimmermann (12-5): 2 IP, 8 hits, 7 runs, 2 walks, 1 strikeout