Kemp went hitless in his first two at-bats before he homered leading off the seventh inning to tie St. Louis’ Albert Pujols(notes) for the NL lead with 37. Kemp, who leads the league with 119 RBIs, went 1 for 4 to keep his average at .326. He picked up a point on Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun(notes), whose average dropped one point to .329 and into a tie with New York’s Jose Reyes(notes), who didn’t play because of a rainout.
Kemp, who turned 27 on Friday, was asked if he was aware of his statistics.
“No, no, I don’t,” he said deadpan. Then he smiled and added, “I do, I do. It is what it is. It’s a fun experience and I’m just going to enjoy it.”
But this night and the Dodgers’ final five games belong to Kemp, who is attempting to be the major league’s first Triple Crown winner since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.
The last player in the National League to pull off the feat was Ducky Medwick of St. Louis in 1937.
And if all that isn’t enough, Kemp is just three homers shy of becoming only the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season.
“What we talked about all year long is get ready to play and play,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “Don’t give at-bats away, keep fighting and at the end of the year there are going to be a pile of numbers there because he focused.”
“He’s a Triple Crown candidate for a reason,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a pitch now that I’d like to have back. But he did a good piece of hitting. If you can hit one out to right-center field here, you’ve earned it.”
Kemp is hitting .552 (16 for 29) during a seven-game hitting streak. During the run he has four homers and nine RBIs.
“It felt pretty good,” Kemp said of the homer. “He is someone you have to be pretty patient with. He mixes his pitches up pretty good.”
Both Mattingly and Kemp spoke about the need for Kemp to continue doing what he has done and not try to change. Kemp said he has resisted the temptation to swing for home runs.
“I haven’t did it the whole season and I’m not going to do it the last five games,” Kemp said. “I’m not going to change it up. I just have to relax. When I try to hit home runs and hit too hard, I’m not too successful.”
Said Mattingly: “It’s been fine for him all year long, so I don’t see making any changes as far as trying to lead him off to try to get him any more at-bats.”
Lilly (11-14) combined with Mike MacDougal(notes), Kenley Jensen and Javy Guerra to hand the Padres their 19th shutout, tops in the majors. Lilly gave up all four hits as he struck out six and walked two.
Guerra pitched the ninth for his 20th save in 21 chances as Los Angeles picked up its 17th shutout.
Los Angeles’ Eugenio Velez(notes) went 0 for 3 with three strikeouts to tie a modern major-league record by going hitless in his last 45 at-bats. He tied Pittsburgh’s Bill Bergen (1909), Dave Campbell of San Diego and St. Louis (1973) and Milwaukee’s Craig Counsell(notes) this season.
“It’s a little hard to watch,” Mattingly said. “He’s such a good kid. He works hard, he’s a good teammate and he’s not moping around here.”
Lilly is 4-1 with a 1.89 ERA in six starts this season against San Diego. Lilly has allowed three runs or less in each of his last 10 outings.
LeBlanc allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings as he set a career-high with 10 strikeouts.
The Dodgers (79-77) won for the 22nd time in 30 games as they moved two games above .500 for the first time since they were 6-4 on April 11.
Notes: The Dodgers are 12-4 against San Diego. … Los Angeles started five rookies. … Dodgers rookie SS Dee Gordon(notes) extended his hitting streak to a career-high 10 games. … LeBlanc became the first Padres pitcher to reach double digits in strikeouts. … Chad Billingsley(notes) (11-10, 4.23 ERA) will start for Los Angeles on Saturday in the second game of the three-game series against Aaron Harang(notes) (13-7, 3,82).