Matt Kemp emerged from the All-Star break by hitting his 23rd home run and driving in four runs, but he said he didn’t consider anything he did with his bat to be his personal highlight from the Dodgers’ 6-4 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The honor was reserved for a throw he made in the first inning that turned a would-be sacrifice fly by Justin Upton into a double play.
Of how he threw out Willie Bloomquist at the plate to end the inning, Kemp said, “I think that was the start of something right there.”
Behind the first-time All-Star’s ever-expanding skill set and a home run by newcomer Juan Rivera, the Dodgers extended their winning streak to a season-long five games.
With the team still nine games under .500, Manager Don Mattingly and his players were careful not to overstate the significance of their current form.
“Obviously, it’s one game,” Mattingly said.
“We have to keep it going, one at a time, one win at a time,” Kemp said.
Kemp’s throw put the Dodgers in position to take a lead in the second inning, when Rivera redirected the first pitch thrown his way into the left-field stands.
Rivera, the latest of General Manager Ned Colletti’s bargain-bin pickups, singled in his next at-bat in the fourth inning and doubled the Dodgers’ lead by scoring on a hit by Dioner Navarro.
Rivera, who was acquired from the Toronto Blue Jays during the All-Star break, finished the night two for four.
Not even Manny Ramirez had that kind of debut with the Dodgers.
Hold off on the Riverawood signs, though.
Mattingly said Tony Gwynn Jr. will continue to get a majority of playing time in left field, noting that he started the right-handed-hitting Rivera on Friday because the Dodgers were facing a left-hander in Joe Saunders.
Rivera went into the game batting .327 against left-handers.
Kemp, who has hit almost everyone, added to the Dodgers’ lead.
With Andre Ethier on first base in the sixth inning, Kemp hit a line drive into the left-field stands that increased the margin to 4-0.
Ethier loaded the bases for Kemp in the seventh inning by drawing a two-out walk, setting up a two-run single.
The six-run cushion Kemp and Rivera built went from being a luxury to a necessity in the bottom of the seventh inning, when the Diamondbacks scored four runs off Clayton Kershaw.
The rally started with an error by Juan Uribe on a ball hit to him by Chris Young.
Ryan Roberts drew a two-out walk, which was followed by a run-scoring single by Miguel Montero.
Xavier Nady hit a three-run home run and the Diamondbacks cut their deficit to 6-4.
Of how he responded to Uribe’s error, Kershaw said, “That was my fault. I have to pick Juan up there. You have to pick up your defenders when they make errors, just like they picked me up today by scoring a bunch of runs. Fortunately, I had enough runs today that it didn’t matter.”
Kershaw earned his fourth victory in five starts. He struck out eight batters in seven innings, increasing his major league-leading strikeout total to 155.