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Matt Kemp bolsters his MVP case in Dodgers' win over Giants

The center fielder hits three doubles and his 36th home run in an 8-2 victory against the Giants.

September 22, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Tom Lasorda, honorary manager on his 84th birthday, congratulates left fielder Juan Rivera after his two-run home run brought in Matt Kemp in the second inning Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.
Tom Lasorda, honorary manager on his 84th birthday, congratulates left… (Michael Robinson Chavez…)

On the closing night at Dodger Stadium, Matt Kemp presented his closing argument for his most-valuable-player candidacy.

So did the crowd.

"M-V-P! M-V-P!"

The stadium appeared to be half-empty but sounded full for the Dodgers' 8-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night.

The fans broke into the three-letter chant after each of Kemp's career-high three doubles. They broke into the chant when the video scoreboard displayed highlights of his first All-Star season. And they broke into the chant one last time in the eighth inning, when Kemp sent an 85-mph by fastball from Barry Zito high into the sky and the ball cleared the center-field wall for his 36th home run.

"M-V-P! M-V-P!"

Kemp's 118 runs batted in rank first in the National League, his 36 home runs second and his .326 average third. Each of his four hits Thursday came against a different pitcher.

Kemp's night ended with an on-field interview for the Prime Ticket audience that was played over the public-address system.

"It's unbelievable," Kemp said of the chants. "It's overwhelming."

As the fans roared, catcher Rod Barajas sneaked up behind Kemp and emptied a tub of ice water over his head.

"Next year," Kemp told the crowd, "we're definitely going to make the playoffs."

He parted with one final message.

"Thank you," Kemp said. "Thank you, everybody. I love y'all."

Managers in both dugouts backed him for MVP.

"If you're talking about the best player in the National League, you have to look at Matt," Don Mattingly said.

Giants Manager Bruce Bochy said that if he had a vote, he would cast it for Kemp.

Kemp wondered aloud if he benefited from his mother's presence near the Dodgers' on-deck circle.

His mother, Judy, was visiting from Oklahoma and also was at the ballpark Wednesday, when he also homered.

"She's going to San Diego," he said, referring to the Dodgers' three-game series against the Padres that starts Friday. "I might take her to Arizona too."

The Dodgers conclude their season in Phoenix on Wednesday.

Asked if he maintained ambitions of becoming the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season, Kemp replied, "I got 40 stolen bases, so we'll see."

Kemp's dramatic final act this season at Dodger Stadium resulted in Tom Lasorda's unofficial 1,600th managerial victory.

Lasorda, who retired in 1996 with two World Series rings and a record of 1,599-1,439, was invited into the Dodgers' dugout as an honorary coach because this day fell on his 84th birthday. He insisted a Dodgers victory would count as part of his official total.

"Very, very important to me," Lasorda said.

Players sang "Happy Birthday" to Lasorda and presented him with a cake in the dining room before the game. Lasorda was serenaded again in the middle of the fifth inning, this time by the entire stadium, as longtime organist Nancy Bea Hefley played the celebratory tune over the stadium's public-address system.

The game could have also marked Hiroki Kuroda's last appearance at Dodger Stadium.

By holding the Giants to two runs and five hits over seven-plus innings, Kuroda won his 13th game — more than he had won in any of his three previous major league seasons.

Kuroda, 36, can become a free agent this off-season.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

twitter.com/dylanohernandez

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