Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp returned to the Dodgers lineup Friday against… (Harry How / Getty Images )
On the night Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier made their long-awaited returns, two other recently activated players had emotionally charged performances that lifted the Dodgers to a 2-1 victory over the San Diego Padres.
But what was felt by second baseman Mark Ellis and reliever Javy Guerra on Friday night were on opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.
Ellis smiled as he recalled his two-run home run in only his fifth game back from a leg injury that nearly left him an amputee. Guerra spoke solemnly about how his father's heart attack affected him as he pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
Guerra, who grew up in Texas, said he received a phone call in the morning from his mother informing him of his father's condition. He secured a passport and made preparations to travel to the Mexican border town of Laredo, where his father is scheduled to undergo open-heart surgery Saturday morning.
Taking the mound momentarily relieved him of his fears and concerns.
"I'm thankful I got to come out here, to be honest," said Guerra, who underwent a minor knee operation in June and was activated July 5.
Guerra said he doesn't know how long he'll be away from the team.
On the other side of the clubhouse, the atmosphere was more lighthearted. Ellis hadn't played at Dodger Stadium since he was hurt on a collision on the basepaths and underwent an emergency leg operation May 19.
His sixth-inning home run off Clayton Richard reversed a one-run deficit.
"It was really fun to get a big hit tonight, especially in front of the home crowd," Ellis said.
With Kemp and Ethier rejoining the Dodgers, their first game after the All-Star break was supposed to mark a return to normalcy for the injury-ravaged first-place team.
Kemp played only two games in the last two months because of a strained left hamstring. Ethier missed the last 11 games because of a strained left hamstring.
"It changes an order," said Manager Don Mattingly, who batted Ellis second, Kemp third and Ethier cleanup.
The Dodgers' dormant offense didn't suddenly awaken because of their returns. Over the first five innings, Padres starter Clayton Richard held them to three hits, two of them by Kemp.
But the victory Friday was similar to many they had early in the season, as they overcame their offensive shortcomings with solid pitching and clean defense.
"That's how we're always going to do it," Clayton Kershaw said.
Kershaw, who pitched in theAll-Star game, didn't look like himself for most of the night. Over six innings, he gave up six hits and three walks, and threw 110 pitches.
Still, he limited the Padres to only one run and improved to 7-5.
"That's an ace right there," Ellis said.
Kemp and Ethier played minor roles in the victory. Kemp was two for four with a double in the first inning. Ethier was 0 for 2 and was hit by a pitch.
The win was only the Dodgers' sixth in the last 21 games. That kept the team half a game ahead of the second-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
In an on-field postgame television interview, Kemp said, "Man, it's been a long time. I've been itching to get back out here."
With the crowd cheering, Kemp said, "We're going to do some big things this year."