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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 04/16/2012

Jackie Robinson Day: Matt Kemp, Dodgers continue torrid start

The Los Angeles Dodgers have a new ownership group, a fresh outlook and a superstar in Matt Kemp who appears poised to make a run at the MVP trophy he narrowly missed out on a year ago.

The good vibes are flowing in L.A. and the 9-1 Dodgers are a big reason why.

All of Major League Baseball celebrated Jackie Robinson Day on Sunday, and the Dodgers did their best to honor their former player in style.

Dee Gordon drove in the Juan Rivera with a walk-off single in the bottom of the ninth to give the Dodgers a 5-4 win over San Diego and baseball’s best record this spring. That came after Los Angeles turned a rare triple play in the top half of the inning.

The win completed a six-game sweep of the Dodgers’ opening homestand — the first time they’ve completed the feat since 2009 — and the triple play was the team’s first since 1998.

The pitching has been stellar, the lineup is hitting and the defense — as was the case Sunday — is pitching in, too. But no one has been more responsible for the team’s red-hot start than Kemp.


Dee Gordon celebrates his walk-off single as the Dodgers beat the Padres. (Victor Decolongon - GETTY IMAGES)
Narrowly edged by Ryan Braun in last year’s National League MVP voting, the 27-year-old center fielder is mashing out of the gate. Through 10 games Kemp leads the majors in average (.487), home runs (6) and RBIs (16). He has four homers over his last three games, including a solo shot off Edinson Volquez on Sunday.

“So far, so good,” Kemp said after hitting a pair of home runs in a 6-1 win on Saturday. “As a team we have played great. The main thing is starting out fast. It doesn’t matter who we play or where we go, we just take care of business for ourselves and get as many wins as we can.”

Only 8.1 percent of MLB’s Opening Day rosters were comprised of African-American players, according to a USA Today report — a figure that is down from 8.5 percent a year ago and a massive fall from the 27 percent mark in 1975. With Kemp, Gordon, James Loney and Tony Gwynn, Jr. on the roster and NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson now one of the team’s minority honors, the Dodgers have more African-American representation than most. And Robinson’s courage to pave the way is not lost on today’s players.

“Wearing his number (shows) my respect for him,” said Gordon, who along with every other player wore Robinson’s No. 42 on Sunday. “To share my appreciation to Jackie for what he did for us in this sport, it was awesome.”

Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully returned to the booth on Sunday after missing five days with a bad cold. A fixture with L.A. for 63 seasons, the 84-year-old was eager to return to his chair. “I’m just going to give thanks that I’m here,” he said.

More

With all players wearing No. 42, MLB honors Jackie Robinson Day

Dodgers turn triple play, beat Padres to improve to 9-1

Can Magic Johnson bring magic back to the Los Angeles Dodgers

By  |  11:50 AM ET, 04/16/2012

 
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