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Matt Kemp returns to help Dodgers to 9-2 win, but is injured again

Matt Kemp has three hits in his first game off the disabled list as the Dodgers beat the Nationals. But Kemp hurts his left ankle in the ninth inning.

July 21, 2013|By Dylan Hernandez

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WASHINGTON — His left ankle wrapped in blue tape, Matt Kemp grunted as he limped to his locker.

"It's not bad," Kemp said. "I hope it's not bad."

Kemp made a spectacular return from the disabled list Sunday, coming within a triple of the cycle to lead the Dodgers to their 20th victory in 25 games, a 9-2 win over the Washington Nationals that completed their three-game sweep. But whatever excitement Kemp felt about how he hit in his first game in just over two weeks was tempered by the pain he felt in his ankle, which he rolled in a ninth-inning play at home plate.

BOX SCORE: Dodgers 9, Washington 2

Kemp sounded certain he would not have to return to the disabled list for the third time this season. Manager Don Mattingly did too.

"That's what I said last time, though, too," Mattingly said, referring to Kemp's most recent trip to the DL.

Mattingly didn't mention it, but he also offered a similar medical opinion before Kemp's first DL stint.

Kemp didn't know when he would play again.

"The biggest thing will be tomorrow when I wake up and see how it feels," Kemp said.

The Dodgers open a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays on Monday at Rogers Centre.

Kemp was injured with two out, the bases loaded and the Dodgers leading, 9-2. Carl Crawford hit a grounder to first baseman Chad Tracy, who saw Crawford would easily beat him or reliever Fernando Abad to the bag. Tracy elected to go home, his throw narrowly beating a sliding Kemp. As Kemp slid, his left foot went into catcher Kurt Suzuki's left leg.

Kemp lamented not breaking on contract. His failure to do so cost Crawford a four-hit game.

"It's my fault," Kemp said. "I wasn't running hard. That's an easy hit for C.C. I took an easy hit away from C.C. I'd rather have four hits than three hits. C.C. has every right to be mad at me. The result of me not running hard to home plate was that I tweaked my ankle a little bit. I'm more disappointed that I wasn't running hard like I should have been."

That was about the only mistake Kemp made in his comeback from an irritated joint in his surgically repaired left shoulder.

In his first at-bat, Kemp homered against All-Star Jordan Zimmermann. The solo blast marked the start of a seven-run second inning for the Dodgers. Hanley Ramirez hit a three-run home run and Kemp also doubled in a run in the inning.

Zimmermann lasted only two innings, as the Dodgers pounded him for eight hits.

Kemp, who also singled in a run in the fourth inning, was pleased to discover that he was able to maintain his rhythm despite a two-week absence. He hit home runs in the two games before he hurt his shoulder on a swing-and-miss in San Francisco on July 5.

"It felt good to get back out there and play again," Kemp said. "I'm always off and on, play some games, sit out some games."

Kemp has only five home runs — something he believes to be the result of off-season surgery — but said he thinks his power is starting to come back.

The Dodgers were encouraged by how they swept a series in which they faced three current or former All-Star pitchers: Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez. Doing so allowed the Dodgers to close their gap with the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks to half a game. The Dodgers were tied for the division lead until the Diamondbacks won in San Francisco later in the day.

"For us to come in here and play like we did, get some wins against some upper-echelon pitchers like we did, it's a good sign for us for sure," said Clayton Kershaw, who pitched seven innings to improve to 9-6.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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