The chant rang out as he rounded the bases. He had heard it years before, when he was younger and speedier and far from the downslope of his career. The improbable second act between Matt Kemp and the Dodgers added another chapter Monday evening, as the crowd at Dodger Stadium serenaded him with the refrain of “M-V-P, M-V-P” in the sixth inning of a 17-1 destruction of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Kemp elicited the cheers with his three-run home run, his eighth hit in consecutive at-bats, and the final strike in his second day with four RBIs in a row. He was far from the only Dodgers offensive star Monday, but he shined the brightest.
“Honestly,” Kemp said, “as a team, we all did a good job tonight scoring runs.”
Indeed, the Dodgers demolished the Pirates pitching staff. Cody Bellinger, Joc Pederson and Max Muncy all homered against rookie Nick Kingham. The Dodgers produced a six-run inning against Kingham (2-4) and fellow rookie Tanner Anderson in the fourth. They hung three more runs on Anderson in the fifth. Kemp capped a four-run flurry against Steven Brault in the next inning.
It was a righteous thumping, and the production spread throughout the lineup. Yasiel Puig drove in four runs. Bellinger and Chris Taylor each produced two runs. The Dodgers had recorded 21 hits through six innings. The game was a farce for most of the evening: After a double in the sixth, Puig feigned napping at second base.
“A lot of good things happening,” Justin Turner said. “Putting balls in play all over the place. A lot of hits with guys in scoring position. And, also, a few long balls. A little bit of everything.”
Benefiting from this cushion was Alex Wood. He strung together six innings of one-run baseball. This was more difficult than it sounds. He lingered on the bench during exceedingly long stretches while his teammates batted around in the fourth, fifth and sixth. Wood admitted the extended delay complicated his outing, but he did not complain. “That’s a lot of runs,” he said.
In his last four outings, Wood (5-5) has found ballast for his season while giving up only six earned runs in 242/3 innings. Caleb Ferguson pitched the final three innings for the Dodgers. The team led by 16 runs when he entered the game. He still received credit for a save.
The Dodgers built a first-inning lead on the shaky hands of Kingham. First, he was charged with an error on a groundball hit by Muncy. Kingham covered first base for what should have been the inning’s second out, but dropped the throw. With Muncy at second base, Kingham balked. With Muncy at third base, Kingham could not collect a tapper back to the mound in time to throw out Cody Bellinger at first base. Muncy scored on Bellinger’s infield single.
“That got everything started,” Kemp said. “After that, we were rolling.”
Bellinger raced to third on a single by Kemp. Kingham responded with another bizarre gaffe. He stood flat-footed on the mound when catcher Elias Diaz relayed the baseball to him. The throw cut toward third base. Kingham missed the catch. Bellinger sprinted home for a second run.
The lead splintered in half in the second. Wood allowed a full-count changeup to hang over the heart of the plate. Diaz hit it out.
Bellinger matched that in the third. Kingham fell behind in the count, 3-and-0. When Kingham pumped a 94-mph fastball, Bellinger volleyed the baseball on a line over the center-field wall.
The Dodgers added a run in the inning. Kemp followed Bellinger’s home run with a double. After walks by Yasmani Grandal and Taylor, Puig used his legs to avoid a double-play ball and bring home Kemp.
Puig aided Wood’s cause in different fashion in the top of the fourth. When Gregory Polanco hit a twisting flyball into the right-field corner, Puig hugged the wall and rose to grab it. The ball faded into foul territory, but Puig hung over the barricade to secure an out. He flung the ball with abandon back to the diamond as the crowd saluted the effort. Wood raised his hands above his head to applaud.
The roof caved in for Kingham and the Pirates in the fourth. Pederson and Muncy ambushed him with consecutive home runs. Kingham would not last much longer. When Turner doubled, manager Clint Hurdle showed more mercy than the Dodgers and removed the rookie.
Into the game came Anderson, here for his major league debut. His second outing will probably go better. At least he kept the Dodgers from leaving the ballpark. Kemp provided more offense with a run-scoring single, his third hit of the game. After an opposite-field double by Grandal, Taylor delivered a broken-bat, run-scoring single.
“It was a clinic tonight,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Puig dealt the last blow in this barrage. He sent a double whistling into center field. Outfielder Austin Meadows whiffed when fielding it, which allowed an additional run to score.
The blitz continued with three runs in the fifth. An inning later, after a walk by Muncy and a single by Turner, Kemp saw a fastball down the middle from Brault. Kemp punished the pitch and rounded the bases to extend the rout.