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Matt Kemp: 'That's my swing right there'

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Victor Decolongon

LOS ANGELES -- All spring long, buoyed by an offseason free of restriction from lifting weights, Matt Kemp was able to hit. He had the full extension of his surgically repaired left shoulder and at the plate looked like the Kemp that nearly won the National League MVP in 2011. On Sunday night, that Kemp returned in the Dodgers' 6-2 win over the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

"Hallelujah, Matt. Hallelujah. It's about time you do something for this team," yelled the eternally playful Juan Uribe in the clubhouse after Kemp hit two home runs.

While clearly joking, Uribe delivered a nugget of truth with his barb. Kemp was limited by various injuries to just 179 games combined in 2012-2013, and after averaging 31 home runs per season from 2009-2011 he hit 29 combined in the last two years.

"It's always tough for anybody who gets injured, like I've been the last two years. It's frustrating," Kemp said. "Just to get back out there and playing with your team is the best thing. I'm happy to be back."

Kemp had the sixth multi-home-run game of his career, and his first since Sept. 29, 2012. Manager Don Mattingly was impressed by where the balls were hit.

"It's good to see Matt be able to go to left center and right center, kind of back to that old, what we saw a few years back with him," Mattingly said. "It's good for our club, and good for Matt's confidence, getting back into a groove was nice."

That confidence was sky high for Kemp on his second home run, in the fourth inning, hitting the ball to right center field. Kemp his 12 of his 39 home runs in 2011 to the right of center field.

"My second home run, that's when I know I'm hitting the ball good, when I'm going to right field," Kemp said. "That's my swing right there."


GIF per Chad Moriyama

Watching from the dugout, Zack Greinke was impressed.

"I thought it was a decent pitch. You don't see many guys able to hit that pitch like that," Greinke recalled. "I have never seen Matt being the player that he is. Last year is the only year I played with him and that's not what you'd expect.

Kemp wasn't alone in his two-homer game, as Hanley Ramirez also hit two home runs and had a double. Ramirez had the 34th game by a Dodger with 10 total bases since 2000, as noted by Jon Weisman at Dodger Insider.

Ramirez said he was inspired by first base coach Davey Lopes, who delivered a fiery pregame message.

"He said, 'Spring training's over. We're in the season, you guys need to do something.' Davey started yelling at us too," Ramirez noted. "You need that kind of stuff. That's motivation. I love this team.

"Having [Kemp], it's a different lineup, definitely."

Since Ramirez joined the Dodgers in July 2012, the Dodgers have averaged 4.31 runs per game in the 80 games that Ramirez and Kemp have started together, and 3.84 runs per game in the 154 other games. Since the start of 2013, Kemp and Ramirez have only played together in 20 games, and the Dodgers have averaged 5.10 runs per game and are 13-7.

"Hanley is on a different level," Greinke said. "If Matt's like that, like he was today, you wouldn't want to face this lineup."