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LAD@SD: Kemp jacks a solo homer in the seventh

LOS ANGELES -- Matt Kemp, already in the thick of National League MVP consideration, is getting serious about this Triple Crown thing.

Even spacious PETCO Park couldn't hold the Dodgers' slugger on Friday night, as he launched home run No. 37 on his 27th birthday in a 2-0 win over the Padres. It was the Dodgers' sixth win in the last seven games and their fifth shutout of San Diego this season. It moved them two games over .500 to match a season high.

"It would be unbelievable if I could do both," Kemp said of winning the MVP and Triple Crown -- average, home runs and RBIs. "The Triple Crown? It's hard not to think about it. It'd be amazing. I was driving down with my mom after the game [Thursday] night talking about it. It would be unbelievable."

Kemp leads the league in RBIs with 119, is tied with Albert Pujols for the National League lead in home runs and is batting .326, third behind Ryan Braun (.329) and Jose Reyes (.329). Baseball's last Triple Crown winner was Boston's Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. The last one in the National League was St. Louis' Joe Medwick in 1937.

The last time a Dodger finished as high as the top four in each of the categories was Mike Piazza in 1997 (third in average, tied for fourth in homers, fourth in RBIs).

Does Kemp know the numbers?

"I don't -- I do," he admitted. "It is what it is. It's a fun experience and I'm just enjoying it while I can."

The Triple Crown he can do on his own. The MVP is voted on by the Baseball Writers Association of America, with two writers in each city casting ballots that must list 10 names. A first-place vote is worth 14 points. From second to 10th, the ballot spots are worth 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 points.

"I'll leave that to you guys to do what you do," he said of the MVP. "All I can do is make it hard for you."

He had only three homers in 37 previous games at PETCO, but this was one of those typical Kemp homers, a high fly to right-center field that just kept carrying.

"I'll tell you what: In San Diego, it's not easy to do, the opposite way in this place when the night air is heavy," manager Don Mattingly said. "Not many guys can do that."

Padres starter Wade LeBlanc served up the homer. The lefty struck out a career-high 10 in the loss.

"It was a fastball that I tried to go down and away with. He's a Triple Crown candidate for a reason. If you're going to hit one to right-center here .. then you have earned it."

Kemp did, but he's been earning it all season. A year ago, as a personally disappointing season was concluding, Kemp predicted he'd hit 40 homers and steal 40 bases this year. He needs three more homers in the last five games to be only the fifth Major Leaguer to do it.

"I believe in myself," he said. "I try to set goals and try to reach them. If I get close, I'm still successful. They're just numbers I throw out there."

Kemp, a bust in the All-Star Game Home Run Derby when he tried to pull pitches, said he decided not to make any such adjustment for this park.

"Try to hit home runs, and you try too hard, and you're not too successful," he said. "Just relax, have fun and whatever happens, happens."

Kemp's latest blast extended his hitting streak to seven games, during which he's slugged four homers. He also leads the league with 110 runs scored and total bases with 339, as well as ranking in the league's top 10 in just about every meaningful offensive category.

He also helped starter Ted Lilly raise his record to 11-14. Lilly held the last-place Padres scoreless through 6 1/3 innings on four hits while continuing his second-half roll. In 11 starts since July 23, Lilly has a 2.42 ERA and six quality starts. He's won four of his last five decisions, is 4-1 against San Diego this year and 10-4 lifetime.

"I'm proud of my boys," Kemp said. "We were struggling at the beginning, but ending strong. I like that. Some people might be disappointed we're not making the playoffs, but what we've done the past two months is really fun."

Mike MacDougal took over for Lilly and inherited a runner on second base. But a heads-up play by third baseman Justin Sellers lured Aaron Cunningham into a rundown for a big second out. Strikeout machine Kenley Jansen fanned the side in a perfect eighth inning and Javy Guerra pitched the ninth for his 20th save. Jansen now has 91 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings for a 15.95 average per nine innings. Carlos Marmol set the MLB record of 15.99 last year.

Mattingly fielded a lineup with six rookies and was playing for one run as early as the second inning. That's when Jerry Sands led off with a double to extend his hitting streak to 11 games, was bunted to third by No. 5 hitter Trent Oeltjen, and scored on Russell Mitchell's tapper to third.

Infielder Eugenio Velez struck out three times and broke Hal Finney's 75-year-old MLB record for most at-bats in a season without a hit by a position player (0-for-36), according to research done by Eric Stephen of Truebluela.com. He also tied the record for most consecutive at-bats without a hit (0-for-45), joining Brooklyn's Bill Bergen in 1909, Dave Campbell and Craig Counsell.

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