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Dodgers' Matt Kemp has one final blast in 7-5 victory

Kemp hits his 39th home run of the year as Dodgers hold off a late rally by the Diamondbacks to win their final game of the season.

September 28, 2011|By Dylan Hernandez
  • Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, right, is congratulated by teammate James Loney after hitting a two-run home run during the seventh inning of the Dodgers' 7-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday.
Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp, right, is congratulated by teammate… (Christian Petersen / Getty…)

A band of blue-clad fans in the half-empty ballpark were on their feet chanting, "M-V-P!" as Matt Kemp walked back to the Dodgers' bench with his head bowed.

Kemp embraced Manager Don Mattingly and walked down the dugout steps.

His season was over.

His season was special — and almost very special.

Kemp hit his 39th home run in the Dodgers' season-ending 7-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Wednesday, falling one long ball short of becoming the fifth player in major league history to hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases in the same season.

Kemp said he was satisfied with his season.

"I couldn't ask for anything better, other than making the playoffs," Kemp said.

The Dodgers finished with an 82-79 record. They played only 161 games this season because a rainout in Washington this month was not made up.

With one on and one out in the ninth inning, Kemp had a chance at joining the 40/40 club.

Rookie Ryan Cook was on the mound.

Cook threw Kemp three fastballs, all of them clocked at 94 mph.

"It was nice," Mattingly said. "I liked that. It was all gas."

Kemp took the first for a called strike. He swung at, and missed, the next two.

"He gave me pitches to hit," Kemp said. Laughing, he added, "I've got to shorten up my swing."

Kemp's home run broke a tie for the league lead with Prince Fielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Kemp also finished the NL's runs batted in leader with 126. His .324 average was third best and his 40 steals tied for second best.

Speaking of history

Eugenio Velez now stands alone.

Mattingly used Velez as an eighth-inning pinch hitter, offering the utility player a chance to hit his way out of an undesirable record. But the well-intentioned move backfired, as Velez hit into another ignoble record.

Velez, who was already on track to finish the season with the most at-bats in a hitless season for a non-pitcher, broke a four-way tie for the longest hitless streak in major-league history.

Velez is hitless in his last 46 at-bats dating to last season. He is 0 for 37 this year.

A scary end

The Dodgers almost had a repeat of Tuesday night, when they scored five runs in the 10th inning, only to give up six in the bottom of the inning to lose.

On Wednesday, the Dodgers took a 7-0 lead into the ninth inning.

But Ramon Troncoso made the game interesting, walking Ryan Roberts to load the bases and serving up a grand slam to Cole Gillespie. Troncoso followed that up by giving up a solo home run to Henry Blanco that closed the gap to two.

Mattingly had to summon Kenley Jansen out of the bullpen to get the final two outs.

Is this it?

Hiroki Kuroda received a hug from Clayton Kershaw. He was tapped on the shoulder by Josh Lindblom, who told him, "See you next year."

Kuroda's eyes were red.

Kuroda denied that he was fighting back tears because he had already decided this would be his last day with the Dodgers. He will be a free agent this winter.

"I still have to think about it," he said of whether he will pitch for the Dodgers, another major league club or return to Japan next year.

But Kuroda was also a free agent at the end of last season and he wasn't nearly as emotional then.

Near the end of the Dodgers' team meeting Monday, Kershaw stood up and announced he had something to say.

He said he wanted Kuroda to return next season.

"He knows how we feel," Kershaw said. "We love him here. If he decides to go back to Japan, we understand. That's his home. He will be a tough person and a tough player to replace, if he decides to go home to Japan."

Position switch for Loney?

James Loney has talked about pitching.

Now, Loney is talking about moving to the outfield.

Loney said he would be willing to the switch from first base if the Dodgers sign either Fielder or Albert Pujols.

"I'll do anything," he said.

Loney played two games in the right field in 2006 and another in 2007. The last time he played in the outfield, Loney crashed into the wall, bruised his knee and was removed from the game.

General Manager Ned Colletti said management has discussed the idea.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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