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Matt Kemp's home run impresses Charlie Haeger

DODGERS FYI

Dodgers outfielder's 449-foot drive over the left-field bullpen has teammate bestowing praises.

August 23, 2009|Dylan Hernandez

Casey Blake was walking by as Charlie Haeger offered his description of the 449-foot home run that Matt Kemp blasted over the Dodgers' bullpen behind the left-field fence.

"That ball was hammered," Haeger said.

"Thanks, dude, appreciate it," said Blake, who barely cleared the wall in left-center field in the fourth inning of the Dodgers' 2-0 win over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.

Kemp's home run was his 18th, equaling his career best from last season. The run batted in was his 77th, surpassing his mark of 76 from last season.

Kemp is hitting .314.

Hitting coach Don Mattingly singled out Kemp as the Dodgers' most improved player.

"I think he's made the most strides of anyone," Mattingly said. "I think he has a better understanding of the strike zone. He's been able to lay off more balls."

Kemp agreed.

"It's getting better and better every year," he said.

Mattingly said there are fewer pitchers who present bad matchups for Kemp.

"I really think he understands how guys are pitching him," Mattingly said. "Sometimes he knows where they're going. They're trying to go low and away, he's looking low and away and he's chasing low and away. It's like, 'OK, do not swing at that.' "

Kemp struck out a franchise-record 153 times last season. He has struck out 110 this season, a pace for 144.

But there have been signs of progress. When he hit .344 in July, he struck out only 12 times in 104 plate appearances.

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Power outage

James Loney hasn't hit a home run at Dodger Stadium since Aug. 22, 2008.

"I've seen guys crush balls here and it's like 10 feet from the warning track," Loney said.

But Loney, who has seven home runs this season, blamed his technique more than he did the ballpark, saying he had to use his legs more.

"I just have to remember to use my legs and drive the ball," he said. "People always say, 'Use your hands,' but you have to use your legs and your hips."

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Padilla pitches

Vicente Padilla remained on track to make his scheduled start Thursday for the Dodgers, as he pitched five innings for triple-A Albuquerque.

Padilla was charged with two runs and three hits, both runs scoring on a two-run home run in his final inning.

To call up Padilla, the Dodgers will have to clear space for him on not only the active roster but also the 40-man roster.

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Bees attack

The bottom half of Section 313 at Dodger Stadium had to be cleared in the eighth inning.

The reason: A swarm of bees invaded the area.

Play wasn't interrupted.

Petco Park in San Diego was the site of a similar incident in July, when a swarm of bees in left field caused a 52-minute delay in a game between the Padres and Houston.

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Short hops

Mark Loretta stole his third base, the 38-year-old utility man's first since April 26, 2006, when he was with Houston. Loretta started in place of Loney, who was 0 for 6 with three strikeouts in his career against Cubs starter Ted Lilly. Torre said that when he told Loney that he wasn't starting, Loney replied, "Why, because he struck me out four times the last time I faced him?" . . . Andre Ethier and Russell Martin also didn't start, their places in the lineup taken by Juan Pierre and Brad Ausmus.

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dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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