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LAD@MIL: Kemp launches a solo dinger to right-center

MILWAUKEE -- Matt Kemp hit a home run on Thursday, like that's a big deal. He does it all the time.

How about Jamey Wright and Jerry Hairston? Who expected them to be the difference-makers in a 4-3 win that avoided the Brewers' first series sweep over the Dodgers ... ever?

OK, Kemp played his usual role, hitting home run No. 7 off former teammate Randy Wolf for not only the Major League lead but the most for a Dodger after 13 games since current broadcaster Rick Monday in 1978. And Kemp did it in the house of Ryan Braun, who went 0-for-11 in the series. Kemp is back in the chase in the Triple Crown categories, batting .451 and tied with teammate Andre Ethier with 18 RBIs each. Braun is hitting .261 with one homer.

Maybe the MVP voters will notice this year.

"Braun's going to hit," said Kemp, runner-up to his buddy Braun in the MVP voting last year. "That's what he can do; he can hit. I'm sure he's not worried about this series. He'll get his hits, just not against us."

Kemp had to share the spotlight with Wright and Hairston, both former Brewers, who stepped out of their backup roles and into key ones. With the bullpen depleted because of close recent games and Mike MacDougal's flu, Wright struck out five in a row en route to scoreless seventh and eighth innings so Javy Guerra could rebound from Tuesday night's blown save and convert No. 6.

"Wright was huge," said manager Don Mattingly. "We were pretty short out there [in the bullpen] today."

Hairston, an emergency sub at third base for the injured Juan Uribe, might have saved the game defensively -- twice. Wright, after the five strikeouts, walked George Kottaras with two out in the eighth. Pinch-runner Carlos Gomez stole second and continued to third on catcher Matt Treanor's throwing error.

Alex Gonzalez followed with a bullet inside third that Hairston stopped with a spectacular backhand diving grab and, from one knee, threw across the diamond, with first baseman James Loney making a difficult one-hop catch to get Gonzalez. In the ninth, Hairston recovered in time to charge Travis Ishikawa's surprise leadoff bunt, made a barehanded grab and threw to first for the out.

"Pretty unbelievable," said Mattingly. "I don't know if anybody else gets to the [Gonzalez] ball. I guess [the right shoulder] that worried us in spring is OK. Check that one off the list."

And check off the list the Dodgers being able to beat a playoff-caliber team after racing to the best record in baseball against the Padres and Pirates. The soft schedule resumes this weekend in Houston.

"This game was a fairly significant win," said Mattingly. "During the season you won't look at this as one of three. We played so well on the homestand and lost a couple here and could have gotten swept, but [we] could have swept them just as easily. We didn't close the door the first game, and the second game it was still in the balance. These games were nip-and-tuck all the way. We bounced back after a couple of walk-off losses to get on the board."

Aaron Harang got on the board, too, bouncing back from a 13-K no-decision with six tougher innings for his first Dodgers win, drawing his manager's praise for getting through his final inning. That frame included one run on three hits, but Harang ended it by striking out pinch-hitter Mat Gamel with runners on the corners and the lead cut to one run after Ishikawa's RBI single.

"Once they scored that third run, I knew I had to hold them right there," said Harang. "They brought Gamel in, and he homered the other night. It was huge to get a strikeout."

Wright, signed to be a long reliever but used as a long setup man in this one, was surprised by his outing.

"It usually takes me two months to get that many strikeouts," Wright joked. "It's my mom's birthday, maybe that's why. I just went right after them with my best stuff. And before I came in, it was probably the worst bullpen I've ever had. I'm glad it worked out the way it did."

Hairston joined Milwaukee for last summer's stretch run and emerged as an everyday player, so the Brewers weren't surprised by his contributions.

"Hairston is a great ballplayer," said Milwaukee manager and former Dodger Ron Roenicke. "I can't think of anybody who is a better utility man, the plays he can make defensively. This series, he showed it at third base. Last year he showed us in center field. He gives you a good at-bat. That at-bat he had against [John Axford on Wednesday], that's as good as it gets. This guy is a really nice ballplayer."

Hairston said that the win took away some of the sting after the two previous walk-off losses.

"The bottom line is, we got a great win," said Hairston. "I know how tough it is to win here. The Brewers have a good team and play good at home. We battled every single game and were in position to win every one. Unfortunately, we didn't win them all, but we salvaged today, which is good.

"I try to take the emotion out of it, but being [in Milwaukee for this series] was special. It was an unbelievable run. We were two games short of the World Series. I made a lot of friends over there. But I have new friends here, and we have a chance to do something special here."

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