And then on May 30, 2012, the Dodgers saw their season flash before them.
Matt Kemp, the heralded outfielder who was the best position player in baseball before injuring his left hamstring, limped off the field again Wednesday night.
Kemp aggravated the hamstring he first injured May 5 in Chicago, when he scored from first Wednesday night on an Andre Ethier double in the first inning of the Dodgers’ eventual 6-3 loss to the Brewers before an announced Dodger Stadium crowd of 25,509.
Kemp scored standing up and without a play, but eased up after rounding third base. He then limped into the dugout, in apparent frustration broke a bat over his knee and vanished into the clubhouse.
Later the Dodgers confirmed Kemp had re-aggravated the hamstring injury and scheduled him for an MRI exam on Thursday. Kemp was playing in just his second game since coming off the 15-day disabled list.
The Dodgers went 9-5 while Kemp was on the DL, but could be hard-pressed to duplicate that record if he has to return to the disabled list. They actually gained a half-game over the second-place Giants while he was out. Their current lead in the National League West is 5½ games.
Wednesday the Dodgers dropped their third consecutive game for the first time this season, all against a Brewers club that has given them fits. Against the rest of the league, the Dodgers are 31-13; against the Brewers they are now 1-5.
Not even having ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound could stem the tide against Milwaukee. Kershaw gave up five runs on eight hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings, throwing 117 pitches.
Still, one game would not overshadow the prospect of losing Kemp for another prolonged period of time.
After Kemp initially strained the hamstring, he continued to try to play through the injury. He pinch hit the next day, but then returned to the lineup. He attempted to play carefully, however, not always running hard and not hitting well (four for 20).
Finally, he tweaked it again May 13 running to first base against Colorado and was placed on the DL the next day. It snapped his consecutive games played streak at 399.
While Kemp was out, Tony Gwynn Jr. became the Dodgers’ primary center fielder. He replaced Kemp in center to start the second inning on Wednesday. Gwynn hit .304 (17 for 56) while Kemp was out.
For the Dodgers, the night began with injury trouble before the game started. Manager Don Mattingly strained his right calf stretching in a workout and conducted his daily media session in the clubhouse instead of the dugout.
He made it to the dugout for the game, but pitching coach Rick Honeycutt made the pitching changes and bench coach Trey Hillman handled any other managerial duties that would have required Mattingly to move from his perch near the dugout rail.
The worst injury news, however, was still to come.