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PIT@LAD: Kemp crushes his 34th homer of the season

LOS ANGELES -- James Loney had more hits Sunday and three Dodgers had more RBIs.

But on Fan Appreciation Day at Dodger Stadium, it was Matt Kemp who came off the field to chants of "M-V-P."

The Dodgers returned to .500 by unleashing a 23-hit assault in a 15-1 rout of the Pirates, with Chad Billingsley (11-10) going the minimum five innings to qualify for his first win since August 7 and snap a seven-start winless drought.

Loney had a career-high five hits through six innings, and Jerry Sands (with his first homer since May 24) and Juan Rivera had four RBIs each.

But manager Don Mattingly put Kemp deservedly in the spotlight by removing the center fielder at the start of the sixth inning after he had already homered, doubled, singled, scored three runs and driven in two.

"I thought it was the right thing to do," Mattingly said of Kemp's game-stopping removal. "It's Fan Appreciation Day and Matt's played every day and I wanted to do that for him."

While the fans cast their MVP vote, teammates greeted Kemp in the dugout with a water dousing, which Rod Barajas repeated with a Powerade cooler during Kemp's postgame interview on the field.

"That would be pretty special," Kemp said of winning the MVP award. "It's something we all try to be, the best we can be, and if I get rewarded with that I'd appreciate and cherish it for a long time."

Kemp is tied for the league lead with 113 RBIs, 103 runs and 318 total bases; tied for second with 34 homers; and third in average at .320.

The Dodgers went 8-for-19 with runners in scoring position and even stranded 14 runners.

"It was a hit parade," said Kemp.

Meanwhile, there was also the production of Loney, Sands and Rivera, each one making a case for an important role next season.

With a career-high five hits and three RBIs, Loney continued his two-month resurgence after a year in the dumps.

"For me, he's swinging as good as any time I've seen James," said Mattingly.

Loney is batting .355 in 43 games since August 1 and giving the Dodgers reason to keep him after he was seemingly headed to non-tendersville.

"Just feeling ready to hit and taking advantage of what they give me," Loney said. "It's actually funny. The last two years, people think those were good years, but I don't accept that. I learned a lot about hitting this year. Learned a lot of things that can help me."

The rookie Sands, with a new swing and eyeing left field for next year, had four hits and four RBIs, extending his hitting streak to seven games and raising his average since a September 6 recall to .390 (16-for-41).

"We talk about Jerry a lot, we just want to let him keep playing and see what it looks like," Mattingly said about Sands' 2012 role. "We didn't want to judge him quickly before [when he hit .200 in a first-half callup] and don't want to judge him quickly now. Kind of let him play and see where he ends up."

The veteran Rivera, looking for that same left-field spot as Sands, tied season-highs with three hits and four RBIs. He has 41 RBIs in 54 games with the Dodgers. That projects to 123 RBIs over 162 games.

Rookie shortstop Dee Gordon had three hits and scored three runs. He's batting .373 since coming off the disabled list Sept. 1. And in a real upset, he even walked, for only the fourth time in 192 plate appearances.

By taking three of four from the Pirates, the Dodgers chewed through the Pittsburgh pitching staff (eight pitchers in eight innings Sunday) and are 4-3 on this last homestand of the year.

"We were challenged dramatically over the weekend," said manager Clint Hurdle, whose Pirates lost the final three games of the series by a combined score of 28-4, after winning the opener Thursday. "They put the bat to us. They beat us off the mound, they shut our offense down, and they beat us up with the bats."

Billingsley ran his pitch count up to 98 and left after five innings, as relievers Hong-Chih Kuo, John Ely and Ramon Troncoso finished up with four scoreless innings.

The Dodgers finish off the home schedule with three games against the Giants starting Tuesday, when they can climb over the .500 mark for the first time since April 29. Comments