The Los Angeles Dodgers’ season is just about over, but at least they’re making a strong push to the finish line.
The NL MVP candidate continues his push for the majors’ first Triple Crown in 44 years on Friday night when Los Angeles opens a season-ending trip against the San Diego Padres.
While the Dodgers (78-77) have won 21 of 29 to move above .500 for the first time since they were 14-13 on April 29, their season ends Wednesday in Arizona at the conclusion of this six-game stretch.
Kemp, though, has plenty to play for as he has a legitimate shot to win the first Triple Crown since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. After going 4 for 5 with a career-high three doubles and a two-run homer in Thursday’s 8-2 victory over San Francisco, Kemp is third in the NL in batting (.326) - trailing Ryan Braun(notes) (.330) and New York’s Jose Reyes(notes) (.329), one behind St. Louis’ Albert Pujols(notes) (37) for the home run lead, and has a league-best 118 RBIs.
No NL player has won the Triple Crown since Joe Medwick for St. Louis in 1937.
“To see a night like that really puts an exclamation mark on what he’s been doing all season,” manager Don Mattingly said of Kemp, who is batting .600 (15 for 25) with three homers and eight RBIs during a six-game hitting streak.
The left-hander will try to help the Padres win their fourth straight as he gets the ball for the first time since tossing six innings of one-run ball in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Arizona.
LeBlanc, though, threw just 53 of 103 pitches for strikes.
“That’s not a trend you want to keep as you’re moving forward, but it’s about getting outs and keeping the team in the game and giving them a chance to win,” he told the Padres’ official website.
LeBlanc, trying to win three consecutive starts for the first time, is 1-5 with a 5.21 ERA in seven career starts against the Dodgers. He lasted six innings in a 4-2 loss in Los Angeles on Aug. 31, giving up four runs and six hits.
The Dodgers will counter with left-hander Ted Lilly(notes) (10-14, 4.27), who has a 2.67 ERA while allowing three runs or fewer in each of his last 10 outings. He threw seven innings of four-hit ball in Saturday’s 6-1 victory over Pittsburgh to become just the third left-hander (CC Sabathia(notes) and Mark Buehrle(notes)) to win 10 or more games in each of the last nine seasons.
“I’m pretty happy with the accomplishment,” Lilly said. “… I look back over those nine years, and I’ve worked hard and done everything I can to be prepared. Basically, I’m going out there and giving it everything I have every five days.”
He is 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA in five starts against San Diego this season.
As strong as Lilly has been lately, he’s allowed a major league-worst 33 stolen bases. That could be a problem against a Padres team that leads the majors with 165 steals.
Los Angeles is 11-4 in this NL West matchup in 2011.