LOS ANGELES (AP) — Matt Kemp had a night he’d like to forget. So did the fans at Dodger Stadium, who saw their team lose at home for the first time this season in eight tries.
Kemp ran himself into outs in the fourth and sixth innings, then got fooled by a drive over his head in the ninth by Martin Prado that hit off Kemp’s glove in the warning track for an RBI triple. The Braves won 4-3 Tuesday night after Chipper Jones homered on his 40th birthday.
Tyler Pastornicky greeted Dodgers closer Javy Guerra (1-2) with a leadoff single in the ninth and advanced on a sacrifice by pinch-hitter Jack Wilson. Michael Bourn struck out, but Prado leaned into a 1-2 pitch and the Dodgers’ two-time Gold Glove center fielder caught up to it in the warning track — but couldn’t hold onto the ball.
“He hit it pretty good and it carried pretty good,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “I know Matt had to go a long way for it. It was a good at-bat by Prado, because Javy made a bunch of good pitches and kept fouling them off.”
Kemp has made that kind of play dozens of times, so he was willing to take the blame for not catching this one.
“He’s got pop and he drove the ball. I should have caught it,” Kemp said. “I was very close. If it hits the glove, it’s got to be caught. There are no excuses. You just have to turn the page and get `em tomorrow.”
Eric O’Flaherty (1-0) pitched 1 1-3 hitless innings for the victory and Craig Kimbrel worked a scoreless ninth for his sixth save in as many attempts.
Jones, playing in his 19th and final big league season, was 1 for 3 with a walk in what could have been his last game at Dodger Stadium if the predictions of rain for Wednesday’s series prove accurate. After the third inning, the left field video board flashed the message: “Happy birthday Chipper. The Dodgers salute your remarkable career,” while organist Nancy Bea Hefley played “Think Of Me” from the musical “Phantom of the Opera.”
The seven-time All-Star, whose 457 career homers are the third-most among switch-hitters behind Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray, hit a towering drive into the Atlanta bullpen in right field on Aaron Harang’s first pitch of the fifth to put the Braves on the board. Jones is the fifth player to homer on his 40th birthday, along with Bob Thurman (1957), Joe Morgan (1983), Wade Boggs (1998) and Tony Phillips (1999).
“He threw me a couple of off-speed pitches my first at-bat, and I thought he might challenge me in at some point that second at-bat,” said Jones, who has 13 homers at Dodger Stadium. “I got one up and got out in front of it. You’ve really got to put a charge into one to hit it out of here at night.
“All three of my homers that I’ve hit this year have been really cool,” Jones added. “I hit my first one in my first start in Houston with my parents in the stands, and the second one came in my home opener. And now this one. You always want to do something special on your birthday, and it doesn’t get more special than that.”
Doing it at Dodger Stadium made the experience even more significant for him.
“This place has always been special to me because I grew up a huge Dodger fan, so this was my Yankee Stadium,” Jones said. “My father was from Vero Beach, where they used to train, so I can remember waking up in the mornings before elementary school, and the first thing I would do is turn on the news to see how the Dodgers did. I feel a little different about the Dodgers now than I did back then, obviously, but this is still a special place for me to play and it’s still one of the most beautiful ballparks — to this day.”
As fate would have it, it was a Dodger who beat out Jones for the NL rookie of the year award in 1995. He finished that season with 23 homers, 86 RBIs and a .265 average. But Hideo Nomo got the nod after going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and an NL-best 236 strikeouts.
“I always said I’d gladly trade that rookie of the year award for a World Series, and I got the chance to do that. So there’s no hard feelings,” Jones said. “I mean, he was a rookie in this league, and this are the rules. Nomo was a great player and he was well-deserving of the award. While he got the writers’ vote, I got the players’ vote, and that was a big compliment for me that my peers thought that much of my rookie season. So all was not lost.”
Juan Rivera gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the first with a two-out homer against lefty Mike Minor that hooked around the left field pole. It made him the 20th player to homer into the Loge deck at Chavez Ravine and the eighth to do it with the Dodgers. The first was Frank Howard in Game 4 of the 1963 World Series against the Yankees’ Whitey Ford.
NOTES: Rivera left the game with a strained left hamstring after getting an infield single off Minor’s leg in the sixth. … Los Angeles placed RHP Matt Guerrier on the 15-day DL, retroactive to April 19, because of tendinitis in his elbow and recalled LHP Michael Antonini from Triple-A Albuquerque. … The Dodgers have outscored opponents 19-5 in the first inning.