LOS ANGELES -- As soon as the ball hit Matt Kemp's bat, he knew it would land fair up the right-field line. All he had to do was trot to first base, capping a 1-0 Dodgers victory over Houston with his walk-off single in the 10th inning on Friday at Dodger Stadium.
Then the sprint began, as the Dodgers' dugout unloaded onto the field, chasing an evasive Kemp throughout the infield. Kemp, typically the aggressor in walk-off celebrations, avoided a couple of white jerseys before he was mobbed by his teammates between second and third base.
"He came inside and I was just trying to get a ball deep," Kemp said of his single off Astros reliever David Carpenter. "He threw a fastball in, and I fought it off. It landed in the right spot."
It scored Casey Blake, who led off the inning with a double before Carpenter intentionally walked Andre Ethier after running the count to 3-1 on him. With the win, the Dodgers improved to 6-0 in extra-inning games this year, and it was their sixth 1-0 win this season.
Kemp's single erased a ninth inning in which the Dodgers loaded the bases with no outs, but were unable to score. Juan Rivera tripled to start the frame, but it went for naught after a strikeout and a pair of groundouts.
"Not a lot of offense going on," Kemp said. "But we came out on top. That's all that really matters in the end."
"Not a lot of offense" was the understatement of the night. Neither team threatened much in the first 8 1/2 innings, as the Dodgers put just two men in scoring position and the Astros three.
When the Dodgers finally got their opportunity to break through in the ninth, it was halted by reliever Fernando Rodriguez.
Dodgers reliever Josh Lindblom worked a perfect 10th inning, despite getting the call that he was next in line as Los Angeles loaded the bases with no one out in the ninth. He never lost focus.
"The mindset always is you're coming in no matter what," said Lindblom, who was rewarded with his first big league victory. "You don't want a mental lapse in that situation."
Lindblom was one of a handful of youngsters making their mark at Dodger Stadium on Friday. Righty Nathan Eovaldi made his first home start, shortstop Justin Sellers made his Major League debut, going 0-for-3, and newly signed first-round Draft pick Chris Reed was introduced to the fans before the game after throwing a bullpen session during batting practice.
Eovaldi's second career start was even more impressive than a solid first outing last Saturday in Arizona against the D-backs. He allowed just two hits in six innings, and despite some control problems -- four walks and just 50 of his 86 pitches for strikes -- held the Astros scoreless.
For Eovaldi, a native of Alvin, Texas, the scoreless outing was especially sweet.
"I grew up watching the Astros," he said. "They were always on TV. So, it was really cool."
Manager Don Mattingly opted to remove Eovaldi after the sixth inning, noting that he had a limit of 90 pitches heading into the game, and he didn't want him to start an inning four pitches shy of the mark. The 21-year-old Eovaldi said he really has no say in the matter, and he's absolutely fine with that.
Mattingly had said before the game that Eovaldi likely won't finish the season in the rotation, with about 30-35 innings remaining before he is either shut down or moved to the bullpen.
But despite the limitations on Eovaldi because of his youth, Mattingly wasn't afraid to project what could have been on Friday.
"For me, it's a good sign that his pitch count was at a point where if he wasn't really going to be limited, he was going to keep going," Mattingly said. "He's through six under 90. That shows you that this guy has a chance ... to go deep without throwing a ton of pitches."
Astros center fielder Jason Bourgeois had nothing but praise for Eovaldi after the game.
"He was pretty deceptive and used his cutter well," Bourgeois said. "He had great location on the outside corner and was aggressive with his fastball. He really buried us there. I have to tip my hat."
Both teams had trouble executing in the late innings once the leadoff man had reached base. In the seventh, Dodgers catcher Dioner Navarro popped out on a bunt attempt. A half-inning later, J.B. Schuck's bunt bounced only a couple feet in front of the plate, and Navarro exacted some revenge, starting a 2-6-4 double play.
The miscues and the squandered ninth-inning rally set the stage for Kemp's third walk-off hit this season and the fifth of his career.
This season, Kemp's celebrations -- where he chases down the teammate with the game-winning hit and tosses him to the ground -- have become a staple in walk-off wins.
Friday, however, he was the one being chased.
"I was trying to duck some guys -- Tony [Gwynn] is quick, but I hit him with a juke move so I got away," Kemp said. "I eventually gave up."
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.