Kemp hits 8th homer, Dodgers beat Astros
HOUSTON (AP) — Matt Kemp and the Los Angeles Dodgers realize he probably can’t maintain a batting average near .500 throughout the season.
For now they’re just focused on enjoying it while it lasts.
Kemp bounced into the clubhouse after his latest big game on Friday night, bobbing his head to a song by rapper Waka Flocka Flame and sporting the smile of a man that — at least for now — can do no wrong for the National League’s best team.
“We’re having fun,” Kemp said when asked about his exploits. “I think as a team we’re having fun. I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to help us win games.”
He did that against the Houston Astros on Friday, homering again, one of his three hits, and driving in two runs to lead the Dodgers to a 3-1 win.
Kemp’s eighth home run of the season was a two-run shot off J.A. Happ that put Los Angeles up 2-0 in the first inning and gave him 20 RBIs this season. It also tied Kemp with Wally Moon for the Dodgers record for most home runs through 14 games.
Ted Lilly (2-0) had another solid start for Los Angeles, allowing four hits and one run in six innings.
Javy Guerra pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save.
All of Kemp’s homers this season have been opposite-field shots to right. He leads the majors in homers and is batting .481.
Kemp reached safely in each of his plate appearances Friday, walking in the third and hitting singles in the fifth and seventh. He has a nine-game hitting streak and homered for the second straight game.
But Kemp isn’t satisfied. He wants to see more from this offense.
“I think we need to do a better job,” Kemp said. “Sometimes we score runs and then we don’t score any runs for the next four or five innings. We’ve got to continue to score runs and find ways to add insurance runs so we can give our pitchers some more room.”
Andre Ethier had a run-scoring single in the third to push the lead to 3-0 and pick up his 19th RBI.
Kemp and Ethier are first and second in the majors in RBIs and have driven in all but 24 of the team’s runs this season. The pair talked in spring training about holding each other accountable and picking one another up this season.
“I’m just trying to keep pace with him somehow,” Ethier said. “That’s the biggest thing. It’s a tough act to follow all the time.”
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly raved about his pair of sluggers.
“He’s been amazing — him and Andre both,” Mattingly said. “We talk about Matt because he’s hitting way up there, but Andre’s right there driving in runs with him every day. Those two together have been pretty special.”
Kemp doesn’t put much into the performance of him and Ethier so far, saying, that’s what they’re “supposed to do.”
“We’re already a month into the season, so we’ve got to keep it going for the next five months,” he said, flashing that huge smile again.
At 11-3, the Dodgers are off to their best start through 14 games since going 12-2 in 2005.
Brian Bogusevic hit a two-out single, stole second base and scored on a single by Chris Snyder to cut the lead to 3-1 in the fourth.
The Astros missed an opportunity in the fifth inning when they loaded the bases with two outs, but came away empty when Jed Lowrie grounded into a force out to end the inning. J.D. Martinez was thrown out by Jerry Hairston Jr. on a close play at third base.
“(Third base coach) Dave (Clark) was right there; he thought he was safe,” Houston manager Brad Mills said. “From where I was, from my angle, I thought he was safe. That was a huge play.”
They were unable replicate the offensive outburst from their last game when they had a season-high 17 hits and scored 11 runs in a win over the Nationals, which broke a four-game losing streak.
Lilly seemed to struggle with command early and walked consecutive batters with two outs in the first inning. He escaped that jam when Chris Johnson grounded into a force out.
“He didn’t give you anything you could hit,” Martinez said. “They did a really good job of keeping us off balance and keeping us guessing.”
Happ (1-1) allowed eight hits and three runs while walking four in six innings.
The win was the Dodgers’ second straight after they lost consecutive games for the first time this season earlier this week.
NOTES: Mattingly said infielder Juan Uribe’s injured wrist was feeling better and he expects him to start Sunday. The manager said before the game that Uribe was available to pinch-hit Friday, but he didn’t use him. … Mattingly turned 51 on Friday. … Houston OF Travis Buck missed the game with a strained left hamstring. … The series continues Saturday when Los Angeles left-hander Clayton Kershaw faces Kyle Weiland.