LOS ANGELES — Matt Kemp knows he can’t escape the rumors.
He can dodge them and he can side-step the questions, but as the trade deadline nears, the Dodgers outfielder knows there is no avoiding the possibility his days in L.A. could be numbered.
Even a game like Tuesday night, when he hit two home runs and drove in four in an 8-4 victory over the Atlanta Braves, does little for his security. If anything, Kemp might have enhanced his trade value, assuming the Red Sox are still interested in a deal that would involve starting pitcher Jon Lester.
But there isn’t much time. The non-waiver deadline expires Thursday afternoon, and trade talk is just that – talk. The Dodgers are one of several teams supposedly seeking a deal for Lester, but they’re saying nothing about their interest.
And Kemp says nothing, too.
"I’m not worried about any rumors," he insisted in a joyous Dodgers clubhouse. "I’m just worried about helping my team win."
The Dodgers are indeed winning. Tuesday’s win marked their first four-game winning streak of the season, and coupled with the San Francisco Giants’ sixth consecutive loss, it moved the Dodgers to a season-best three-game lead in the National League West.
In fact, it was one long day of celebration. During the game, the Dodgers announced that broadcaster Vin Scully will return for a 66th season in the booth, causing a pause as a Dodger Stadium turnout of 49,630 gave Scully a prolonged ovation.
Then Dodgers came back from a 4-2 deficit behind Kemp, Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez, who combined to drive in all the team’s runs.
Yasiel Puig had a single, double and triple but missed two chances at a home run that would have given him the cycle. Kemp’s second homer broke open the game.
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The Dodgers have to be concerned about their rotation after starter Josh Beckett struggled for the third time in four starts and was unable to pitch through the fifth inning. He and Dan Haren, who was skipped once in the rotation because of ineffectiveness, are the reason the Dodgers are looking for pitching depth.
Kemp’s trade value isn’t likely to go any higher. In his past eight games, he’s hitting .451 (14 for 31) with nine RBI.
"I’ve been working on some things and it’s been working for me, so might as well just stick with it and keep it going," he said.
Manager Don Mattingly said Kemp’s comfort level on offense might have to do with his defensive switch to right field, where he has looked at ease. But it’s also hard not to be impressed with his ability to put aside the rumors during a time he could be distracted by them.
"All this stuff that goes on, and so many rumors nowadays with so much social media and guys throwing stuff on the wall with trade rumors and everything else, you’ve got to be ready to play," Mattingly said. "Keep it simple. Matt did a nice job handling that."
It’s not quite over, and no one can be certain whether Kemp is staying or going, but if the Dodgers remain as they are, he could be an important player down the stretch.