WEDNESDAY, MAY 30, 2012 Dodgers.com Eovaldi sharp, but LA falls in Kemp's return By Alex Angert / MLB.com | 5/30/2012 2:13 AM ET
LOS ANGELES -- The stage was set for some old fashioned Matt Kemp heroics on Tuesday night.
He delivered on his part.
Only this time, his teammates, who stepped up admirably to lead the Dodgers to a 9-5 record in his absence, failed to help in the clutch, as the Dodgers fell to the Brewers, 2-1.
With the Dodgers down one in the bottom of the ninth and the fans on their feet, Kemp smacked a fastball from Brewers' closer Jon Axford to left-center for a double after working a nine-pitch at bat.
After Andre Ethier was hit by a pitch following the two-bagger, the usually dependable Jerry Hairston Jr. failed to put down a bunt, forcing him to swing with two strikes, leading to a 4-3 double-play. With Kemp moved to third, James Loney grounded out to short to end the game and secure the Brewers' victory.
"You want to get the bunt down, obviously, and I tried to do it, but bottom line, I didn't do it," Hairston said. "And I compound the problem, the last thing I want to do is ground into a double play, but I did that, too. Some nights, it's not going to be there. It's the big leagues, and you've just got to move on."
While it was hoped that Kemp would resurrect some life into the Dodgers' offense, the ninth inning was another example of the team's bats continuing to go limp in key moments. The loss moved Los Angeles to 2-4 in its last six games, after rattling off a six-game winning streak.
"The last couple of days, we've had trouble scratching for runs," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
A large reason for that on Tuesday was the performance by Milwaukee's rookie starter Michael Fiers, who was making his first-ever start in the Majors.
Fiers worked quickly through the Dodgers' lineup, going seven innings, allowing only five hits and one run with no walks.
"You feel the crowd, and how much they support this team, and especially with Kemp back, they're really excited," Fiers said about the 51,137 in attendance. "For me, it wasn't too tough. I think I handled it decently. I tried not to show too much emotion, but inside I was going pretty crazy."
The Dodgers countered with their own rookie pitcher, Nathan Eovaldi, who was just as efficient for the most part. Called up Tuesday morning to replace Ted Lilly -- who was sent to the disabled list Monday with shoulder inflammation -- Eovaldi also lasted seven innings, giving up only four hits, two runs and one walk, while striking out four and finishing with 90 pitches, 63 of which he threw for strikes.
"Eovaldi's ball-strike ratio, absolutely incredible," said Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke. "We kept watching it. It was sliders, it was changeups, the explosive fastball. That's pretty incredible to do that."
The two young pitchers combined to pitch eight 1-2-3 innings.
However, one mistake erased an otherwise sharp start for Eovaldi.
After Nyjer Morgan started things off in the top of the first inning with a one-out single, the pitcher served up a first-pitch fastball to Ryan Braun, who sent it into the right-field stands.
The Dodgers would have a few opportunities to tie the game, but couldn't convert.
Ethier and A.J. Ellis recorded the Dodgers' first pair of hits on cracked bat singles in the second and fifth, respectively. Dee Gordon moved Ellis to second in the fifth with an infield single, but the pitcher Eovaldi struck out on a seven-pitch at-bat without lifting the bat off his shoulder.
Despite a stalled offense, Mattingly didn't consider pinch hitting in that situation.
"We've got a guy out there who is basically coming out of their Minor Leagues with very little experience," he said. "I've got to believe we're going to put up a couple runs and get back into the game."
With one out in the sixth, Ivan De Jesus got things temporarily rolling with a double down the left-field line. After Kemp weakly hit a ball that landed only a few yards in front of Milwaukee's catcher, Martin Maldonado, Ethier smacked a double to right-center to score the runner and record his league-leading 43rd RBI. However, the one run was all Los Angeles could put together after Hairston grounded out to short to end the inning.
But despite the Dodgers losing in Kemp's homecoming and struggling offensively, the center fielder was glad to be back.
"Exciting," Kemp said, summing up his emotions. "I felt good. It's good to be back with my team. I had some pretty good at-bats. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off."
Kemp excited to be back in lineup By Alex Angert and Lyle Spencer / MLB.com | 05/29/12 10:05 PM ET
LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp was born to play, not lead cheers, so the Dodgers' superstar center fielder naturally was beaming on Tuesday, a few hours before taking the field at Dodger Stadium for the first time in 15 days.
Claiming his left hamstring strain was fully healed, Kemp returned to his familiar No. 3 spot in manager Don Mattingly's lineup against the Brewers. The National League's Player of the Month for April, Kemp was hoping to regain his stroke against an unfamiliar right-hander named Michael Fiers, who made his first Major League start.
"I'm ready to go," Kemp said, having ripped Triple-A pitching (5-for-7, two homers) in two rehab games for Albuquerque. "I actually feel good. I don't even feel [the hamstring strain]. I'm definitely confident in my leg."
Kemp is hitting .359, with 12 homers and 28 RBIs in 34 games. He owns a .726 slugging percentage, and .446 on-base marks in 117 at-bats. The Dodgers have maintained their winning ways (9-5 in his absence), and continued to deliver a productive offense largely because of the contributions of A.J. Ellis, Tony Gwynn, Andre Ethier and Jerry Hairston Jr.
"They've done a great job playing good baseball," Kemp said. "I'm back, and it's time to go to work. A lot of guys are stepping up doing a great job. Tony and A.J. are getting big hits.
"It definitely shows the character of the team, our chemistry. If one person doesn't get the job done, another person does. That's what it takes to be a winning team. We've lost Mark [Ellis], Juan [Rivera], me, [Juan] Uribe. Those are four starters. To step up and do what they've done is incredible."
Kemp, who strained the hamstring on May 14, said "it feels like a month" that he's been away.
"I woke up today feeling like it's Opening Day," he said. That might be a good omen. Kemp had two hits, including a homer, and drove in three runs in a 5-3 Opening Day victory at San Diego.
While the center fielder was on the DL for the last two weeks, Mattingly used Kemp's replacement, Tony Gwynn, to bat leadoff, moving the struggling Dee Gordon down to eighth. Before going 0-for-4 Monday night, Gordon, the Opening Day leadoff hitter, was hitting 8-for-18 since hitting at to the bottom of the lineup.
Against the right-handed Michael Fiers on Tuesday, Gwynn will remain in the leadoff spot, shifting over to left field to replace Bobby Abreu, who hits lefties better.
Mattingly added that Gwynn has swung the bat well recently, and he's earned him some more playing time. However, like the rest of the lineup with guys now coming back, the manager couldn't commit to a defined spot for the outfielder.
"It kind of all depends for me with who we got going, where our next couple of games are, how that's matching up, who we are trying to give a day off to," Mattingly said.
With Juan Rivera nearing his return, Mattingly said he'll need to mix and match certain guys, with a number of players like Gwynn and Abreu stepping up lately.
"We'll see where it goes," Mattingly said twice before adding that he'll figure it out.
Rivera, Uribe hope to be back soon
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers welcomed back one Opening Day starter on Tuesday, and they expect the return of another real soon.
Manager Don Mattingly said outfielder Juan Rivera, who has been on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain since May 9, should be back with the team when they travel to Colorado on Friday.
"When we first talked about it, and [trainer Sue Falsone] just reminded me, we were talking six weeks, and we're at 19 days," Mattingly said. "So this guy is way ahead of schedule."
Rivera went 2-for-5 with three RBIs during a two-game rehab assignment with the Albuquerque Isotopes. However, he said he still doesn't feel 100 percent, and he plans to play one or two games for Class A Rancho Cucamonga before returning.
"I want to get my timing and see how I feel in the knee," Rivera said. "It was a little sore after the second game. Today it's good, better than the day before. They said it would take two months, but I want to come back before that, so I did treatment here and at home, alternate hot and cold. I think that helped me a lot, helped me come back early."
Mattingly added Juan Uribe, who hit the disabled list on May 14 with a left wrist injury, is doing better as well.
"He actually is a little irritated they aren't letting him hit today," Mattingly said. "He's been in the cage a couple of days, and it sounds like he's going to hit BP tomorrow."
Images of Scully bobblehead released
LOS ANGELES -- The images of the Vin Scully bobblehead presented by Farmer John were released on Tuesday. The bobblehead will be given away to fans with the first 50,000 valid tickets on Aug. 30, when the Dodgers face Arizona.
The Vin Scully bobblehead will be the tenth and final bobblehead given away during the season as part of the Dodger Stadium Greats Bobblehead series, which has already honored past players such as Orel Hershiser, Don Drysdale and Maury Wills.
A bobblehead of "The Infield" quartet of Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell and Ron Cey was given away before Tuesday's game.