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Must C Clutch: Kemp launches a walk-off blast in 11th

LOS ANGELES -- Before every season, Matt Kemp sets personal goals -- numbers and statistics he hopes to attain during the upcoming year.

But the Dodgers' MVP candidate has always maintained wins are far more important to him than whether or not he reaches those numbers.

That's what made Saturday's home run -- a walk-off 11th-inning shot to seal a 7-6 Dodgers win over Colorado -- sweeter to Kemp than Friday's -- when he joined the 30-30 club with a seventh-inning blast in a game that the Dodgers had already wrapped up.

"It's definitely satisfying," said Kemp, who touched home plate to chants of "MVP" from a crowd that had thinned out during the four-hour, 39-minute marathon. "But I'd be more satisfied if we were in first place and in contention. But I think we're right there. We're not gonna give up. We're gonna keep fighting."

Visibly frustrated after he fouled off an 0-1 fastball, Kemp crushed Jason Hammel's next pitch over the right-center-field fence for his third walk-off homer of the season, and his fourth walkoff hit. It ended a game that saw the Dodgers come back twice, seemingly from out of nowhere.

"It felt pretty good, especially the way the game was going," Kemp said. "They get ahead and we come back, it was just one of those good games. Any walk-off is a good walk-off."

With no one on and one out in the ninth, James Loney hit his second homer in as many days to tie the game at 6 and send it to extra innings. Loney, like the Dodgers' entire offense, has been hot recently.

After he struggled, especially power-wise, for much of the season, Loney is hitting .381 in August. He is 15 for his last 26 with three homers during that time.

"They're gonna throw enough pitches over the course of the season that you're gonna hit," Loney said. "I was missing some of those pitches early on."

Following the game, manager Don Mattingly was asked about the offseason status of Loney, who will be a free agent. For the most part, he said he'd put off the question until the offseason, but he noted Loney's recent surge isn't hurting his cause.

"We ask guys early on to make us have tough decisions," Mattingly said. "James will be a tough one."

If Loney keeps hitting the way he has recently, that decision will only get tougher. His late-inning heroics led to extra innings Saturday, but for much of the afternoon, extras were barely even an afterthought.

The Dodgers were held scoreless until a five-run sixth-inning rally awakened the previously quiet Saturday afternoon crowd at Dodger Stadium.

Even though the inning was aided by a pair of errors that led to two unearned runs, it was the type of offensive surge that has become commonplace in the last 10 days, where the much-maligned Dodgers offense has averaged 6.6 runs per contest.

"It makes you wonder a little bit," Mattingly said about what the season could have been had the offense produced up to its capabilities all year. "Our pitching has been pretty dynamic all year long and kept us in games. We've had chances to win a lot of games, but weren't able to scratch across runs."

They did that Saturday after a poor start from Chad Billingsley. He labored through six innings, doing nothing to make the 97-degree first-pitch temperature any more bearable as he tossed 97 pitches in the first four frames.

"I want to stay in there as long as I can," said Billingsley, who lasted six without his best stuff, allowing four runs (three earned) on 10 hits. "The guys have been swinging the bats pretty well the past couple of weeks."

A half inning after the Dodgers fought back, Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki silenced the fans more suddenly than they had just come to life. It took all of two pitches from Dodgers reliever Hong-Chih Kuo -- a Carlos Gonzalez bunt single and a Tulowitzki home run -- for the Rockies to reclaim the lead.

The fact that the Dodgers were able to fight back twice made the win sweeter for Kemp, who drove in his 99th and 100th runs Saturday.

"These past couple of games we've fought back," Kemp said. "That's just showing how much we're improving."

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