Dodgers' Matt Kemp squats a first base in the fifth inning during a… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Matt Kemp had cooled off now. The frustration of the night, of his season, now tempered by a Dodgers’ victory.
It had not been that way earlier Saturday, when a struggling and frustrated Kemp reacted angrily in the seventh after Manager Don Mattingly took him out of a one-run game in a double-switch.
Kemp appeared to yell at Mattingly as he headed off the field, flipping his glove at the dugout wall and barking a little more before momentarily disappearing into the clubhouse.
“Man, I was just frustrated,” Kemp said. “It had been a bad day for me. I really didn’t do much to help the team win. It is what it is. It’s over now.”
Kemp denied he was yelling directly at Mattingly.
“I was just shouting,” he said.
Kemp had struck out twice with runners in scoring position Saturday, including the final at-bat in the sixth on a ball almost in the dirt. Each time the crowd booed the player who came in second in the National League MVP in 2011.
“It is what it is,” he said. “It’s how they feel, booing me. Let them do what they want to do.”
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez, however, was disappointed by the crowd’s reaction.
“Kemp's never a guy that should be booed,” Gonzalez said. “He's trying his heart out. He's working hard every day. He shows up early. He works. He hits early.
“He's struggling. We all go through the struggles. But Kemp cares more than anybody out here. He's an incredible competitor.”
Kemp is batting .261 with two home runs and 17 runs batted in. He had shoulder surgery in the offseason and told The Times’ T.J. Simers he’s having trouble getting full extension on his swing, though is uncertain whether it’s physical or mental.
Mattingly said he did not take Kemp out in the double-switch because he was struggling, but simply because it was the right course of action.
“It was the right move,” Mattingly said. “It has nothing to do with Matt struggling. This is more a baseball move.”
Mattingly had already made an earlier double-switch and said he didn’t like taking Kemp out, but it was what the situation required.
“Guys don’t like coming out and I understand that,” he said.
Mattingly said he was told of Kemp’s reaction but had not seen it and was unaware that the outfielder appeared to be yelling at him.
“If that’s that the case, we’ll talk about it,” he said. “I know Matt’s frustrated with things, but there was nothing personal there. I love Matt. It was a baseball move. I try to make baseball moves all the time that gives us the best chance to win.”
Mattingly said he was taken aback at the booing of Kemp.
“You don’t hear it much here, so a little bit,” he said. “I’ve watched guys out here who were All-Stars who were really struggling and still getting golf claps. I think that maybe a little bit a part of the frustration of the fans with the high expectations … we have to understand that as a team. And we change that by playing better and winning games.”
Andre Ethier, who made a terrific running catch of a Matt Holliday slicing drive in the first, was also booed when he popped up with runners on in the third. Ethier took Mattingly’s pragmatic approach to the booing he and Kemp received.
“It’s disappointing but it’s understandable,” Ethier said. “We know what the expectations are that they have for ourselves. And rightfully so. I guess it’s a compliment to know what they expect out of us.”