LOS ANGELES – Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp has been at the center of trade rumors for weeks, and as the trade frenzy reached a peak, so did the ball that Kemp barreled to center field Wednesday night against the Braves.
Kemp led off the second inning with a towering blast to left-center to tie the game at 1-1 just a few hours after general manager Ned Colletti vehemently denied that he was shopping the struggling outfielder. A couple hours after that, he hit a walk-off single to send Justin Turner home for the winning run in the Dodgers’ 3-2 10-inning win at Dodger Stadium.
Turner looked up to celebrate the Dodgers’ fifth straight win with his teammates but he received no high-fives. They were all mobbing Kemp.
There’s 24 hours left until the deadline, but Kemp will almost assuredly remain a Dodger.
"Nobody’s heard me say we’re trading Matt Kemp," Colletti said before the game. "Nobody has heard me say we’re shopping Matt Kemp. Nobody has heard me say that. That’s all in another world."
The outfield might remain crowded, but Kemp has only bolstered his cause to remain a fixture in it since the All-Star break. In the second half he’s hitting .436 with three homers — two in the last two nights. He also reached base in all four at-bats Wednesday night.
"I know he’s been working on some things," manager Don Mattingly said. "It looks like he’s seeing the ball really well right now. We talked about it a little bit last night, it seems like he’s way more comfortable, if this has anything to do with it, being in right field. It just kind of seems to change his swag a little bit."
Also not getting traded at tomorrow’s non-waiver trade deadline is top prospects Cory Seager (shortstop, Double-A) and Joc Pederson (outfield, Triple-A). Andre Ethier has seen only a handful of at-bats in the last two weeks as he has been banished to the bench in the crowd. Pederson is said to be MLB ready right now, but with Carl Crawford and Scott Van Slyke still on the active roster there doesn’t seem to be a solution to the problem in the near future.
Colletti also said left-handed pitcher Julio Urias, the Mexican phenom in high-A, is off the table in all negotiations. A short-term rental of a guy like Jon Lester doesn’t warrant trading any of those prospects.
"At this point in time, we’re not in the market to trade any of the three, period. There’s been no player that we’ve discussed that warrants two of the three, three of the three," Colletti said. "Otherwise, we’d be having a different meeting right now."
Greinke gave up one run in the second inning before going six scoreless. He scattered five hits and struck out 13 and was finally on track for the win after Kemp took two bases on an RBI single by Juan Uribe. But closer Kenley Jansen gave up a leadoff home run to Justin Upton in the top of the ninth, a massive blast that the entire crowd knew was far out of the park as soon as he hit it, tying the game at 2.
But Kemp provided the heroics in the bottom of the 10th. It was his ninth career walk-off hit and left some wondering why they ever wanted to see him in anything but Dodger blue.
He’s got more where that came from, he promised. He might have kept the game from going longer than 3:30, but as a nod to his walkup song by Lionel Richie, he assures that he could have kept going.
"Let’s do this ‘All Night Long’," he joked. "It’s a great feeling to know that you helped the team win a game, especially at the end. Those games are exciting, back and forth. Justin hit that home run and we knew we had a chance to still go out there and get the win. It’s good to go out and get one of those."