LOS ANGELES — He’s baaaaaack. In what would have been unthinkable four months ago, and even highly improbable even four weeks ago, Matt Kemp is back in the middle of another Dodgers opening day lineup.
Kemp bats sixth and starts in left field on Thursday against the Giants, who send left-hander Ty Blach to the mound in the first game of the season. Kemp is a career .319/.380/.542 hitter against southpaws, though hit just .250/.330/.354 against left-handers in 2017, his lowest mark since 2006.
This is the seventh opening day start for Kemp, putting him in a tie for 25th most in Dodgers history along with Don Sutton, Don Drysdale, Davey Lopes, Mike Marshall, Ken Landreaux, Bill Buckner and Ivy Olson. Clayton Kershaw is the only active Dodgers player with more opening day starts with the team than Kemp, making his eighth straight opening day start on Thursday.
Opening day lineups
|2B||Panik (L)||SS||Seager (L)|
|1B||Belt (L)||C||Grandal (S)|
Kemp last started on opening day for the Dodgers in 2013, also the last time the Dodgers played the Giants in the season’s first game. Kemp has reached base by hit or walk in all six of his opening day starts with the Dodgers, hitting .333/.462/.667 (7-for-21) with two home runs, a double, five walks, seven runs scored and seven RBI.
Kiké Hernandez bats cleanup for the Dodgers against the left-hander. It’s the third opening day roster for Hernandez, but his first start.
“I’ve already started feeling the butterflies,” Hernandez said.
Yasiel Puig is batting third for the Dodgers after a productive spring that saw him hit .333/.358/.686 with six doubles, including home runs in four of his last five exhibition games.
Puig batted nearly all over the lineup in 2017, starting at every position in the batting order from third through ninth. He made just one start batting third and was 0-for-4.
“Kiké over his career has really murdered left-handed pitching,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You look at him being there and protecting Yasiel and potentially having three at-bats against Ty Blach, that’s a good thing.”
Yasmani Grandal gets the start at catcher over Austin Barnes.
“Yasmani cleaned up some things mechanically right-handed and he’s really in a good place offensively,” Roberts said.