SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — Even though it’s still spring training, Matt Kemp was still happy to get a couple of hits.
Kemp ended a 0-for-11 run to begin the Cactus League with his first two hits of the spring and Clayton Kershaw allowed two hits in five innings and added an RBI single and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 6-1 Sunday.
Kemp singled in the first inning, walked in the fourth and added an RBI single to score Dee Gordon during a six-run fifth inning.
Juan Uribe followed Kemp with a three-run homer to cap the inning.
“(My swing is) not where it needs to be, but it was better,” Kemp said while watching the USA-Canada World Baseball Classic game at nearby Chase Field on TV.
“My rhythm just felt better, taking pitches and getting in a groove. It takes time every spring. I’m not going to panic. If people go by spring training. … I don’t think I’m fighting for a job now. It’s more about a good feeling at the plate more than hits.”
Kemp said sunny skies after two days of rain and cold and the crowd helped.
“You don’t get adrenaline like you would at Dodger Stadium with three or four thousand people compared to 56,000 people. There’s a lot empty seats (early in spring),” Kemp said. “Today there were a lot of people here, it felt more like a real game.”
Kershaw, who had allowed eight earned runs in eight innings in three starts, turned things up a notch as well. He allowed a leadoff single to Dexter Fowler and a single to Henry Wrigley in the second, but breezed through his five innings. He walked three and struck out two.
“It was better. Still not throwing a lot of breaking balls for strikes, but my fastball was coming out better,” said Kershaw, coming off a 14-win season.
“I got behind in some counts and they weren’t getting good swings on the fastballs. I still walked three guys so there are things to work on.”
Colorado starter Jeff Francis blanked the Dodgers through four innings to extend his spring scoreless streak to 13 innings.
But he ran into trouble in the fifth, allowing singles to Alex Castellanos and Alfredo Amezaga before Kershaw and Skip Schumaker followed with RBI singles.
Francis reached the 70-pitch mark and manager Walt Weiss said he is in contention for Colorado’s opening day starter.
“The first four innings I was really happy,” Francis said. “In the fifth, I don’t know if it was getting tired or having traffic on bases, but I just started missing by quite a bit. The next time I get to that point, I’ll be better conditioned to do it.”
Notes: Rockies catcher Charlie Blackmon is back with the team after an infection in his right knee that he had March 1 required a hospital stay. Blackmon, who cut the leg while sliding, won’t be cleared for baseball activities until later in the week.
Colorado first baseman Todd Helton, who wasn’t available for a second straight game with some slight swelling in the right knee that he had surgery on in November, will be back in the lineup Monday against the Chicago White Sox. Dodgers non-roster pitcher Matt Palmer will undergo surgery to repair a torn medial meniscus tear in his left knee on Tuesday. Palmer, who hurt the knee on Saturday while walking after playing catch, will miss six to eight weeks.