Kemp looks to continue his strong start to the second half Sunday as the Dodgers try to salvage a split in their four-game home series with the New York Mets.
Los Angeles (55-43) has scored 58 runs while batting .342 to win six of nine games since the All-Star break. Kemp is batting .448 (13-for-29) with three home runs, nine runs scored and 10 RBIs in those games.
Kemp’s hot streak continued on Saturday, when he hit a go-ahead three-run homer in the fourth inning as the Dodgers overcame an early four-run deficit en route to an 8-6 victory. The comeback helped Los Angeles starter Brad Penny improve to 12-1 this season.
“We’ve always got Penny’s back and he’s always got our back,” Kemp said. “We know that if he has one shaky inning, he’s going to come back strong and keep pitching hard. And that’s what happened. He stayed in the game, we got some big hits and we came out with the win.”
Kemp, who spent much of the first half in the minors after separating his right shoulder April 9, is batting .375 (12-for-32) with four home runs and 10 RBIs in 11 career games against the Mets.
The Mets (54-43) lost for the first time this season after leading by more than three runs. They also fell to 3-3 on their current road trip against San Diego and Los Angeles. After Sunday’s contest, New York returns to Shea Stadium for seven-game homestand against Washington and Pittsburgh - two of the NL’s worst clubs.
The Mets hope to improve on their league-high 28 road wins with Orlando Hernandez (6-4, 2.96 ERA) on the mound.
The right-hander has allowed only two runs over 13 innings in winning back-to-back starts for the first time this season. He held San Diego to two hits in seven innings of New York’s 7-0 victory on Tuesday. He also singled, stole second and scored in that game.
“He’s a competitor,” Mets manager Willie Randolph said. “We’re an aggressive running team, but El Duque ignites you if you’re just kind of laying back. He kind of forces you to play the game.”
Hernandez, who is 1-2 with a 5.64 ERA in four career starts against the Dodgers, hasn’t won three straight starts since April 30-May 11, 2005, when he pitched for the Chicago White Sox.
He will face the Dodgers’ Eric Stults (0-1, 5.06), making his first start of the year. The left-hander gave up four runs and eight hits in three innings of relief during a 15-3 loss to Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Stults defeated the Mets in his first major league start, limiting them to one run and two hits in six innings in the Dodgers’ 9-1 victory last Sept. 10. It remains his only win in 10 career games, including two starts.