Kemp has eventful return as Dodgers roll

David Driver, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- Sunday was an eventful day for Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp.
He came off the disabled list in the morning, slammed a homer in his first at-bat and nearly hit for the cycle but then injured his left ankle on a slide into home in the ninth inning in a 9-2 win over the Washington Nationals.
"We were all swinging the bats well," said Kemp, who had a single, double and homer with three RBI. "We put up a lot of runs (seven) in that second inning."
Kemp returned from the disabled list with a vengeance, smashing RBI hits in his first three at-bats as the Dodgers swept the three-game series.
Kemp had a solo homer and an RBI double in a seven-run second and an RBI single in the fourth to make it 9-1. He lined to left in the sixth and walked in the ninth in a bid for the cycle, which had not been done by a Dodger since Orlando Hudson against the San Francisco Giants in 2009.
"He is a great hitter. We all know that," Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez said of Kemp. "He is an MVP-type player."
But Kemp came up limping after he was forced out at home on a grounder to first with the bases loaded to end the top of the ninth. Carl Crawford (three hits) hit a grounder to first baseman Chad Tracy with two outs and, when Tracy realized Crawford would beat him to first, smartly threw home for the force on Kemp, who admitted he was not running as hard as he should have.
"It is a little sore. I tweaked it a little bit," he said of his ankle, which appropriately was taped in Dodger blue and white. "I took a hit away from C.C. That was my fault."
Kemp did not return to the outfield for the last of the ninth. He said he will know more when he wakes up on Monday in Toronto, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hopes Kemp does not have to go back on the DL.
"It is not as bad as they thought it would be. I am not going to feel bad about the win," Mattingly said.
Los Angeles (50-47), with 15 hits, has won 20 of its last 25 games while Washington (48-50) has dropped eight of its last 10 and has fallen into third-place in the NL East. The Nationals had just four hits.
A season of promise for the Nationals, who won 98 games and the NL East title last year, is quickly spiraling south. Jordan Zimmermann (12-5) lost his first game at Nationals Park since May 17, 2012 -- a span of 14 wins in a row. He lasted just two innings Sunday and gave up seven earned runs.
"I am not happy when we lose," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "Sometimes it is tough to have patience."
The light-hitting Nationals will play their 99th game Monday at home with the Pittsburgh Pirates and are two games under .500 for just the second time all season. It was the shortest outing of Zimmermann's career.
"It was one of those days when nothing was working," said Zimmermann, who did not pitch in the All-Star Game due to a sore neck. "Losing these three kind of hurts a little bit."
Clayton Kershaw (9-6) got the win as he allowed just two hits (solo homers to Jayson Werth) in seven innings with no walks and nine strikeouts. His ERA rose from 1.98 to 2.01.
Can the Dodgers, who are chasing Arizona, get into first place by the end of Sunday?
"Just keep playing the way we are. Ask me that the end of September. This is a good sign," Kershaw said of the sweep. "That is a good team over there."
NOTES: OF Scott Van Slyke was sent to Class AAA Albuquerque to make room for Kemp. ... Washington's Adam LaRoche was back in the lineup at first after he missed the last two games with the flu. With LaRoche back in the lineup, Bryce Harper moved from cleanup to leadoff and he also moved from left to center. Denard Span, the regular center fielder, was out of the lineup as Scott Hairston got his first start for the Nationals, in left field. ... RHP Dan Haren (4-10, 5.61 ERA) will pitch for the Nationals on Monday against RHP Charlie Morton (1-2, 3.19) of the Pittsburgh Pirates. ... LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (7-3, 3.09) of the Dodgers will face RHP Josh Johnson (1-5, 5.16) at the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday.

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