Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp gives thanks as he crosses home plate after… (Joe Robbins / Getty Images )
Reporting from Cincinnati
Perhaps it's time to stop thinking about what Matt Kemp might do in the future and look at what he's doing now.
"Some of the stuff he's doing out there, few people can do," Clayton Kershaw said. "I know we take it for granted, but he's a special player."
Kemp's 15 home runs, 46 runs batted in and 14 steals rank among the National League leaders. He is batting .318.
And on Saturday, he was the single most influential force as the Dodgers erased a five-run deficit, hitting two home runs and driving in a career-high six runs in what could be the team's most important victory this season: 11-8 in 11 innings over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.
Kemp's eighth-inning grand slam tied the score, 7-7, to erase a certain defeat from Kershaw's record.
"It's a great win, it's a great win," Jamey Carroll said. "Hopefully, something can come out of that for us."
What made the victory so special was that this was exactly the kind of game that resulted in countless of the downtrodden Dodgers' defeats — they had to come from behind.
"We kept fighting," Kemp said.
Kershaw faced the minimum number of batters through five innings — he picked off Joey Votto after giving up a hit to him in the fourth inning — but was tagged for four runs in the sixth inning and two in the seventh.
The Dodgers went into the eighth inning down, 7-2. The club had come back from five runs down after seven innings to win only three times since it moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
Tony Gwynn Jr. started the comeback with a one-out single to right field. Carroll singled. So did Aaron Miles, driving in Gwynn to cut the deficit to 7-3.
In what Mattingly singled out as a key at-bat in the inning, Andre Ethier drew a walk against left-hander Bill Bray to load the bases.
With Logan Ondrusek on the mound, Kemp launched the ball over the center-field wall. Score tied, 7-7.
"I was just looking for a ball up," Kemp said. "You don't want to try to hit a home run right there. I was just trying to get the run from third base in. He threw me a fastball up and I got on top of it."
Mattingly said Kemp's continued development was a direct result of his hard work.
"Even though we've seen good years before, you knew there was more," Mattingly said. "To his credit, he's put in time. He really worked hard on defense in spring training. He was out working on baserunning early, before camp even started. The whole gamut. He's worked on all areas of his game.
Kemp's power got the Dodgers to extra innings, but the guile of their role players won them the game.
Light-hitting infielder Juan Castro singled to right field and advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Dioner Navarro. A hit by Gwynn put men at the corners.
Carroll drove in Castro with a single to center field. Miles singled off the right-field wall to increase the Dodgers' lead to 9-7.
Ground balls by Ethier and Kemp added two runs.
Javy Guerra, who pitched the 10th inning and recorded the first out of the 11th, earned his first career victory.
Mattingly said the win was evidence of the team's resolve, which he has long talked about.
"It's been like this," he said. "I've said it the whole time: I've never had a problem with the effort the guys are giving."