Kemp's slam propels Dodgers to sweep
Center fielder says strong finish can carry over into 2011
DENVER -- Matt Kemp hasn't stopped hitting home runs this year, but he's already predicting much better things for him, his team and Dodgers fans in 2011.
"Forty-forty," said Kemp, speaking to the numbers of home runs and stolen bases he'll shoot for after slugging a grand slam Wednesday as the Dodgers held on for a 7-6 win over the Rockies and their first series sweep in more than a month.
While it's been a season to forget for Kemp -- with a .248 batting average, misplays afield, an L.A.-record 168 strikeouts, criticism from staff, etc. -- he said it will be a different Kemp next season. He's already praised incoming manager Don Mattingly as somebody "who knows how to talk with us," and now he's offered reassuring words for fans of a team that must sweep the D-backs this weekend just to finish at .500.
"Got to pay the fans back," Kemp said. "They deserve it. They'll be mad at me in the offseason. Got to do something for them special, we all do. Why not give them a little taste right now? We won three in a row, we win six and take it into next season."
The home run Kemp hit off Jhoulys Chacin keyed a five-run (all unearned) third inning and followed a two-out walk by James Loney. The inning started with a one-out double by Chin-lung Hu.
"I don't walk, he doesn't hit the homer," Loney joked as he walked past reporters at Kemp's locker.
Colorado scored a gift run in the second inning when Troy Tulowitzki led off with a line drive to center that Kemp lost in the sun, the ball sailing over Kemp's head and Tulowitzki being credited with a triple. He scored on Todd Helton's sacrifice fly.
Kemp more than made up for the play in the third with his 25th homer of the season, second in as many games and fifth career grand slam. He had 26 homers last year when he drove in 101 runs and hit .297. He has 83 RBIs and 19 stolen bases.
"He's just trying to find it," manager Joe Torre said. "He's been so much better lately, we're all pulling for that to be the case because he's struggled so much this year."
Carlos Monasterios, who didn't know he was starting until after Tuesday night's game, was given a 7-2 lead in the third inning, yet fell one out shy of qualifying for a victory. He was charged with five runs in 4 2/3 innings.
Two of Monasterios' runs scored on a Ryan Spilborghs single allowed by Ramon Troncoso, who pitched 1 1/3 innings and was credited with the win. Jeff Weaver, who had pitched only seven innings in five weeks, bailed George Sherrill out of a seventh-inning bases-loaded jam with a one-pitch flyout by Melvin Mora.
"I've done a lot of throwing to make one pitch," said Weaver, who hadn't pitched in 11 days. "It was good to get in a close game. I've had inconsistent results along with appearances."
Weaver said he would like to come back to the Dodgers next year.
"And that's probably it for me," he said.
Hong-Chih Kuo came on in the eighth inning with a two-run lead looking for a two-inning save, but made 22 pitches in a scoreless eighth and Torre wouldn't send him out for the ninth, instead calling on Ronald Belisario.
Despite blowing a save Tuesday night and allowing three consecutive runners to reach base in the ninth, Belisario hung on when Miguel Olivo lined out to Hu for his second save in five chances.
"We had the bases loaded on four different occasions and we just got a little bit," Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. "A game like today's is tough to lose whether it has major significance or it doesn't."
Torre doesn't find much consolation in the chance to finish at .500 after reaching the postseason 14 consecutive seasons.
"After what our aspirations were and to be in position the first half, .500 is fine, but it's really not enough motivation," he said. "We have more important things in mind. You want to win, but you pay attention to what you want to see and what Donnie wants to see. It would be nice to finish with wins, don't get me wrong. The games don't mean anything but you still get excited in the ninth inning."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.