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Matt Kemp turns on the power in Dodgers' 6-1 win

Center fielder hits two home runs, giving him five this season, and Andre Ethier also hits one to help L.A. beat San Diego and improve to 8-1.

April 14, 2012|By Dylan Hernandez

The chants grew louder and louder as Matt Kemp made his way around the bases.

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

The chants, accompanied by the beat of drum playing over Dodger Stadium's public-address system, were even louder the second time Kemp cleared the powder-blue outfield wall.

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

The 46,549 spectators in the ballpark, who made up the second-largest announced crowd of the five-game homestand, were on their feet.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Kemp said.

Had the regular season ended Saturday night, Kemp would probably be the National League's most valuable player. He hit two two-run home runs in the Dodgers' 6-1 victory over the San Diego Padres, giving him a major league-leading five.

He also leads the majors in the two other triple-crown categories. He is hitting .457 and has driven in 15 runs.

And, at 8-1, the Dodgers have the best record in the major leagues.

The Dodgers' modest win total of 82 was probably what cost Kemp the MVP award last season, when he finished second in voting to Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers.

"It's a long season," Kemp said. "It's definitely not something I'm thinking about. I'm thinking about making the playoffs first."

Kemp's three-hit performance — he singled in the seventh inning when shortstop Jason Bartlett couldn't handle his hard-hit grounder — backed a spectacular season debut by left-hander Ted Lilly.

Activated from the 15-day disabled list before the game, Lilly held the Padres to one run and two hits over seven innings. He threw only 79 pitches. The run he gave up came in the first inning and was unearned.

Lilly's first turn in the rotation was skipped because he suffered a stiff neck during spring training that prevented him from building up his arm strength. Kemp's march toward his stated goal of 50 home runs not only served as a nice welcome-back gift for Lilly, but also presented Padres starter Joe Wieland with a couple of welcome-to-the-big-league moments.

Wieland made his major league debut Saturday night and his first inning was particularly brutal.

The 22-year-old right-hander started the game by walking Dee Gordon. Two batters later, Kemp cleared the wall in center field.

The Dodgers were up, 2-1.

Andre Ethier immediately followed that up with a long home run to left-center field, his third home run of the season. Ethier has 14 runs batted in, second-most in the majors.

"Right now, we're kind of going off of each other," Kemp said.

Kemp and Ethier hadn't hit back-to-back home runs in nearly two years. The last time they did that was April 16, 2010, against the San Francisco Giants.

Wieland helped James Loney break out of his slump, as Loney doubled to left field for the first of his two hits. Loney scored later in the inning on a sacrifice fly by Adam Kennedy to increase the Dodgers' advantage to 4-1.

Kemp teed off Wieland again in the second inning, when he came to the plate withTony Gwynn Jr.on base. This time, Kemp cleared the wall in right field.

None of Kemp's home runs have been to left field.

"I'm thinking up the middle, not trying to pull the ball too much," Kemp said. "If I start looking in there too much, I get off track, my bat doesn't stay in the zone too long."

The game was Kemp's fourth career multi-home run game.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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