Kemp, Dodgers slam Brewers in extras
Slugger connects on granny in 10th after Blake's RBI triple
MILWAUKEE -- On a night when Manny Ramirez tied Mickey Mantle on the all-time home run list, Matt Kemp was part Willie Mays Hayes and Pedro Cerrano as the Dodgers beat the Brewers, 12-8, in extra innings Friday night at Miller Park.
After the Dodgers already came back three times, Milwaukee was brewing another comeback of its own.
With two runners on and the Dodgers up four in the bottom of the 10th inning, Jason Kendall hit a towering fly ball to center field. Kemp, who was playing very shallow, turned and made a running, back-turned-to-the-ball basket catch to preserve the win.
"He came in [the dugout] and he says, 'Willie Mays Hayes,'" Dodgers manager Joe Torre joked of Kemp's words after the game, in reference to the fleet-footed center fielder in the movie "Major League."
"I was kind of messing around with it in [batting practice] today," said Kemp, laughing about the catch. "The field is kind of big and it's kind of weird out there -- the ball carries. ... I was working on it in BP today and thought I might use it in a game."
In keeping with the "Major League" theme, Kemp also channeled the power-hitting Cerrano from the film, hitting a grand slam in the top of the 10th inning to turn a tight, one-run game into a six-run deficit too big for the Brewers to overcome.
The grand slam was already Kemp's fourth in his young career and his third of 2009. The 24-year-old outfielder has all three of Los Angeles' grand slams this season.
"He's capable of all that stuff," Torre said. "I think we see his ability to play this game, and he's going to make mistakes, but he's going to excite you and he certainly did tonight."
As a whole, the Dodgers (55-31) hit a season-high five home runs. Along with Kemp and Ramirez, Andre Ethier, James Loney and Russell Martin all hit solo home runs.
Ramirez's homer, a two-run shot in the sixth inning, was the 536th of his career and tied him for 15th all-time with Mickey Mantle.
"That's not normally what our signature is, but we certainly put them to good use tonight," Torre said of the home runs.
Although home runs aren't the Dodgers' signature, exciting, come-from-behind wins are, and that was certainly the case Friday night.
On a night when All-Star pitcher Chad Billingsley struggled mightily -- throwing just 67 of his 110 pitches for strikes and leaving with the bases loaded in the sixth -- the Dodgers had to constantly fight back.
Down a run entering the sixth inning, Los Angeles regained the lead quickly thanks to the two-run homer by Ramirez and a solo shot by Martin.
But the Brewers (44-42) continued to fight back, as Mat Gamel sent the Dodgers into comeback mode once again with a solo homer in the bottom of the eighth inning to put Milwaukee up, 6-5.
"They just keep plugging away, what can I say," Torre said. "We had the 5-3 lead -- we had five hits and four home runs, that's a little crazy."
The Dodgers finally began manufacturing runs in the top of the ninth against Brewers closer Trevor Hoffman. Martin led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt. Kemp then bunted for a base hit and Mark Loretta hit an RBI single to tie the game.
"They got their great closer, Hoffman, in there, and I was just proud of the way we went after him," said Blake, who drove in the go-ahead run in the 10th before Kemp's grand slam. "That was a great job by Loretta there."
All six of the Dodgers' 10th-inning runs were charged to Carlos Villanueva (2-6), who took the loss, while Ramon Troncoso (3-0) earned the win in relief, throwing 1 2/3 scoreless innings.
"This was another [close] one," Torre said. "We fall behind and Trevor Hoffman comes in, and not too many good things happen for the other team when he comes into the game. But we went to work and we were able to tie the game. That was huge."
The win may have been huge, but it was certainly nothing new for the Dodgers, who improved their already best record in baseball.
The win was the Dodgers' 23rd comeback victory this season, and they improved their record to 9-2 in extra-inning games.
With all of their success in tight games this season, and once again Friday night, Kemp said afterward the Dodgers expect to win those types of games.
"We've been there a while and we know even if we're up or down, we know -- especially if we're down late in games -- we can come back with the kind of lineup we have," Kemp said.
Cash Kruth is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.