So instead of talking about the spectacular return of Matt Kemp from the disabled list, with a homer and double in the second inning alone and four times on base in the Dodgers’ 9-2 victory over Washington – a game that puts Los Angeles in a tie for first place in the National League West, pending the result of Arizona’s game at San Francisco today – we’re going to be talking about another injury.
Long after Hanley Ramirez blew the game open with a three-run homer in the Dodgers’ seven-run second inning, after Clayton Kershaw had completed a seven-inning outing with nine strikeouts and only two hits allowed (both home runs by Jayson Werth), the Dodgers loaded the bases with two out in the top of the ninth. Carl Crawford beat out a grounder to the right side, and then mayhem struck.
Kemp, who had been on third base, was slowly jogging home on Crawford’s grounder when he realized that a throw would be coming home. He then suddenly accelerated and stepped awkwardly into the plate, appearing to hurt his ankle in the process.
As quick as that, happy days turned into the blame game. Why was Kemp still in the game? Why was he running so slow on the play? Why did he suddenly try to score and risk injury?
Why was Kemp still in the game? Because as much as you don’t want him to overdo it on his first game back, Kemp didn’t need any rest, and the chances of him hurting himself were remote.
Why was he running so slow on the play? For the same reason people asked why he was still in the game – he didn’t want to overdo it. Except he underdid it.
Why did he suddenly rush into home at the end? Because he realized he had been going too slow, and his baseball instincts kicked in.
It was an extremely unfortunate play, particularly if it sends Kemp, who has homered in three of the last four games he has been able to play in, back to the disabled list for the third time this season.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to blame Don Mattingly for leaving Kemp in the game. And frankly, as much as Kemp might be at fault for running too slow at the start and too recklessly at the finish, for misreading the situation, what good does it do to be critical? We should be far past the point of questioning Kemp’s effort in a baseball game, and no one is going to feel worse about the outcome than he will.