WASHINGTON (AP) — Whatever might be ailing Matt Kemp — and he's had left shoulder and right knee issues this season — the rest of the Los Angeles Dodgers figure he'll need to carry them if the club is going to make the playoffs.
Kemp sure was right in the middle of things Wednesday against the Washington Nationals.
In a wild second game of a doubleheader, Kemp was ruled safe at home to give Los Angeles a six-run lead in the fourth even though TV replays clearly showed third baseman Ryan Zimmerman's head-over-heels lunging tag already had been applied to runner Adrian Gonzalez for the inning's final out.
After Washington used a six-run eighth to tie the score, Kemp led off the ninth with a go-ahead homer off closer Tyler Clippard, and the struggling Dodgers grabbed a 7-6 victory for a doubleheader split that prevented the Nationals from sewing up their first playoff berth since moving from Montreal in 2005.
"I don't think he'll tell anybody, but I don't think he's feeling 100 percent," Gonzalez said about Kemp. "There are a couple things that are still lingering there, a little bit of pain. He's battling through it, and he's doing a great job of just playing through this and being the team leader that he is."
Still, even Kemp was willing to concede the phantom run the umpires said he scored should not have counted.
Washington Nationals manager Davey Johnson ("They obviously blew the call"), Zimmerman ("You can't just give out free runs in the big leagues") and catcher Jesus Flores ("Terrible call") were much more blunt about it.
"It looked pretty close. I actually probably should have been running just forward and not looking back. ... I don't know if I quite made it or not," Kemp said, before asking reporters whether they had seen a replay.
Informed that he should not have scored, Kemp said: "Actually, yeah, I don't think I did. But we got lucky right there. We stole a run."
That extra run really loomed large when the hosts — who had won the opener 3-1 thanks largely to Jordan Zimmermann's six innings of one-run baseball — wound up sending 12 batters to the plate while scoring six runs in the eighth.
"At the time, I don't think anyone thought it was a really big deal, but it turned out to be a big deal," Zimmerman said. "It was 5-0, and they just make it 6-0."
Crew chief Mike Winters declined to comment.
"Calls like that, you never know when they're going to come back and kick you," said Washington's Michael Morse, who delivered a leadoff homer and a two-run single in the eighth.
The announced crowd of 26,931 was getting loud, perhaps anticipating a comeback and playoff-clinching victory, when Kemp drove an 0-2, elevated fastball from Clippard (2-5) over the wall in center for his 19th homer.
"I can't remember ever putting a ball in that spot and getting hurt like that in my whole career," said Clippard, who earned his 32nd save of the season in Game 1. "It's a tough one to swallow, but nothing I can do about it now."
Josh Beckett, who started Game 2 and threw seven scoreless innings before getting into trouble in the eighth, said Kemp will need to do well for the Dodgers to reach the postseason. Los Angeles is two games out of the last NL wild-card berth.