With improved play and better health, the Los Angeles Dodgers finally have climbed atop the National League West ahead of the San Francisco Giants. Today, two of the team's chief contributors during the team's recent uptick were honored, as starter Clayton Kershaw was voted the National League Pitcher of the Month for July, and outfielder Matt Kemp was named National League Player of the Week for the period ending August 3rd.
In five outings last month, Kershaw was 4-0 with a N.L.-best 1.07 ERA, allowing just five earned runs in a League-high 42.0 innings of work. The southpaw tossed a Major League-high three complete games last month and tied for first in the N.L. in wins, while posting the second-lowest opponents’ batting average (.165) among qualifying N.L. pitchers.
Kershaw started the month with back-to-back wins on July 4th at Colorado and July 10th vs. San Diego, extending his record-setting scoreless innings streak to 41.0 before seeing it snapped in the sixth inning of the latter outing. The 41.0-inning streak dated back to his June 13th start vs. Arizona and spanned parts of six games. Only Brandon Webb (42.0, July-August 2007), Bob Gibson (47.0, June 1968), Don Drysdale (58.0, May-June 1968) and Orel Hershiser (59.0, August-September 1988) have posted longer such streaks.
Despite seeing his streak snapped, Kershaw extended his winning streak to eight in the San Diego start, fanning 11 and allowing just three hits in the complete game effort. Kershaw dazzled in his July 26th outing, rendering a 5-0 shutout victory over the division-rival San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The two-time Cy Young Award winner allowed just three hits and a walk while fanning seven in his second complete game performance of the month. He capped his stellar month of July with his second consecutive complete-game victory on July 31st, allowing a single run in 9.0 innings of work while collecting nine strikeouts en route to a 2-1 victory over the visiting Atlanta Braves.
With the win, the Dodger ace tied his career-best streak of wins in 10 straight decisions while improving his record to 13-2 on the season. This is his fourth career Pitcher of the Month Award, having won previously for July 2011, July 2013 and June 2014. Kershaw becomes the first Dodger hurler to collect back-to-back monthly honors since Hall of Famer Don Sutton (April-May 1975).
Other pitchers receiving votes included San Diego’s Tyson Ross (4-2, 1.10 ERA, SHO, 48 SO, 41.0 IP); New York Mets rookie Jacob deGrom (4-1, 1.39 ERA, 38 SO, 32.1 IP); and Philadelphia’s Cole Hamels (4-1, 1.94 ERA, 42 SO, 41.2 IP).
Meanwhile, Matt Kemp's recent move to right field has paid huge dividends for the Boys in Blue, as Kemp looks much more comfortable at that position compared to left and center.
Kemp's improved comfort in the field has translated to better production at the plate. In six games last week, Kemp was tied for the Major League lead with five home runs and nine RBI while pacing the N.L. with a 1.091 slugging percentage and ranking second in the League with 24 total bases. The 29-year-old hit .409 (9-for-22), which was the N.L.’s fourth-highest mark last week, and he compiled a .458 on-base percentage, which was good for sixth. Kemp added a stolen base and six runs scored as his division-leading Dodgers won four of six contests.
On Tuesday, Kemp’s two-homer game helped sink the Atlanta Braves by an 8-4 tally in the opening game of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. With his two-run homer in the second inning of the game, Kemp became the seventh Los Angeles Dodger to eclipse the 600 career RBI threshold. On Wednesday, Kemp’s 3-for-4 effort, capped by a walk-off single in the bottom of the 10th inning, gave the Dodgers a 3-2 victory over the Braves. It was his ninth career walk-off hit and the third of four walk-off victories for the Dodgers this season.
Kemp’s power surge continued into the weekend as he clubbed home runs in both Saturday and Sunday’s contests against the Chicago Cubs. His 13 long balls are tied with Yasiel Puig for second-most on the Dodgers this season behind Adrian Gonzalez’s team-leading 15 homers. This is Matt’s fifth career Player of the Week citation, having won previously for the weeks ending May 4, 2008; September 25, 2011; April 8, 2012; and April 15, 2012.
Other noteworthy performances last week included Pittsburgh’s Josh Harrison (.400, 10 R, 12 H, 3 2B, 4 HR, 5 RBI, .967 SLG, .455 OBP) and Vance Worley (1-0, 0.60 ERA, 5 SO, 15.0 IP); Milwaukee’s Aramis Ramirez (.522, 12 H, HR, 5 RBI, .783 SLG, .522 OBP); Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman (0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 SV, 4 G, 4.0 IP, 6 SO) and Mike Leake (2-0, 0.66 ERA, 13 SO, 13.2 IP); Kemp’s Dodger teammate Clayton Kershaw (1-0, CG, R, 9 SO, 9.0 IP); and Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (1-1, 0.64 ERA, 14 SO, 14.0 IP).
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services