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Matt Kemp gets a bit closer to 40-40 in 4-2 win

The Dodgers center fielder hits a National League-leading 38th home run with two games remaining in victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

September 26, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez

Reporting from Phoenix -- While one milestone might have vanished from the realm of possibility on Monday night, another moved well within Matt Kemp's reach.

Kemp almost certainly won't win the National League's triple crown, not after he was one for four in the Dodgers' 4-2 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks to lower his average to .324. That dropped him 10 points behind batting title frontrunners Jose Reyes of the New York Mets and Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers.

But Kemp's towering three-run blast against Daniel Hudson in the first inning counted as his league-leading 38th home run. Two more swings like that in the next two games and Kemp will become only the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season.

"It's close, but we have a short period of time to do it," Kemp said. "I don't want to put any pressure on myself, just continue to go out there and have fun. Whatever happens, happens. If it is meant to be, it is meant to be."

His mother, Judy, remains by his side. Since she left Oklahoma to visit him in last week, he has hit four home runs in six games.

"She ain't going nowhere," Kemp said.

Meanwhile, Clayton Kershaw secured his place in the history books, and did so without throwing a pitch.

Kershaw should officially become the 16th NL pitcher since 1900 to win the triple crown of pitching when the regular season ends, as Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies made his final start and failed to steal the earned-run average or strikeout title from Kershaw.

Lee was charged with two runs in six innings and credited with six strikeouts in a 4-2 victory over Atlanta; he had to pitch 102/3 scoreless innings or strike out 17 to move into the lead for one of the triple-crown categories.

Kershaw finished the season as the league's co-leader in wins (21) with Ian Kennedy of the Diamondbacks and the leader in ERA (2.28) and strikeouts (248).

Kemp tops the NL in home runs and runs batted in (123). But to overtake Reyes and Braun for the batting title, he would have to be six for eight in the next two games and have them both be 0 for 8.

"Those guys can hit," Kemp said. "I take my hat off to them."

So, it appears as if Joe Medwick will remain the last NL hitter to win the triple crown. He did it in 1937.

The last player to hit 40 home runs and steal 40 bases in the same season was Alfonso Soriano in 2006.

Of the four players in the 40-40 club, Soriano was the only one to do it after the implementation of baseball's current drug-test program. The other three players have been linked to steroids — Jose Canseco (1988), Barry Bonds (1996) and Alex Rodriguez (1998).

Manager Don Mattingly said he would consider aiding Kemp's 40-40 try by moving him into the leadoff spot to get him more at-bats.

The victory Monday pushed the Dodgers three games over .500 for the first time this year. At 81-78 with two games remaining — a rainout in Washington this month won't be made up — they secured a winning season.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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