A messy divorce and an ownership struggle has overshadowed the Los Angeles Dodgers for much of the season.
Kemp will try to bolster his Triple Crown credentials Saturday night when the Dodgers take on the San Diego Padres.
With a solo homer in Friday’s 2-0 series-opening win, Kemp tied St. Louis’ Albert Pujols(notes) for the NL lead with 37, and the New York Yankees’ Curtis Granderson(notes) for tops in the majors with 119 RBIs. Kemp also is hitting .326 - three points behind NL co-leaders Ryan Braun(notes) of Milwaukee and Jose Reyes(notes) of the Mets.
If Kemp wins the Triple Crown, he would be the first since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. No NL player has done so after St. Louis’ Joe Medwick in 1937. Should Kemp fall short in his bid, he could end up as the first Dodger to win NL MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988.
“It is what it is. It’s a fun experience and I’m just going to enjoy it,” said Kemp, who also needs three homers in the last six games to be the fifth player with 40 homers and 40 steals.
Kemp’s chase is welcome news for the Dodgers (79-77), who seem to have spent more time in the news for owners Frank and Jamie McCourt’s martial squabbles. Major League Baseball on Friday asked a Delaware bankruptcy judge to clear the way for a sale of the team.
Kemp is hitting .552 (16 for 29) with four homers and nine RBIs in a seven-game hitting streak. He’s 4 for 13 with a homer in his career against Aaron Harang(notes) (13-7, 3.82 ERA), who looks to avoid his fifth loss in six starts for the Padres.
The right-hander has posted a 3.19 ERA but has been backed by an average of 2.03 runs per game during his current 1-4 stretch. He allowed two runs on solo homers among eight hits over six innings of Sunday’s 5-1 loss to Arizona.
Harang is 8-1 in 14 starts when he doesn’t allow a home run. In his other 13 starts, Harang has yielded 20 homers while going 5-6.
Harang also is 1-0 with a 0.75 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers this year. He threw six no-hit innings with three walks and six strikeouts July 9 at Chavez Ravine, yet failed to get a decision as the Padres managed one hit in the 1-0 loss.
The San Diego native is 3-6 with a 4.83 ERA in 10 starts against the Dodgers.
San Diego (68-89), which had four hits in its 19th shutout Friday, has lost four straight to the Dodgers and is 4-12 against them in 2011.
The right-hander hopes to close his season with back-to-back victories. Billingsley earned his first win since Aug. 5 after yielding a run and four hits in five innings of Sunday’s 15-1 romp over Pittsburgh.
In his only start versus San Diego this season, Billingsley scattered four hits and walked five over eight innings of the 1-0 win July 8 in Los Angeles.
He’s 11-7 with a 2.76 ERA in 24 games against the Padres.