MILWAUKEE -- Matt Kemp never drove in eight runs in a game, but his trade to the Padres was instantly the Dodgers' most controversial this side of Mike Piazza, and only Yasmani Grandal can change that.
Grandal recited all the proper talking points in Spring Training, insisting he wouldn't press, then did just that, batting .179 until a week ago, when manager Don Mattingly told him to chill.
In his last five games, Grandal has shown why new management got him. He slugged a pair of home runs (one to right field, one to left) with a career-high eight RBIs in Thursday's 14-4 blowout of the Brewers at Miller Park, although Mattingly said it was the walk-off home run he hit in the 13th inning Sunday to beat the D-backs that was Grandal's Dodgers breakthrough.
"He had three hits the day before [Saturday], but that homer cements you in the club a little bit," said Mattingly. "You come over, a guy nobody knows. Spring Training doesn't really count. I felt he was pressing. But that big hit the last day at home, it makes you feel as a player a lot more comfortable in the group."
Grandal, who was given A.J. Ellis' starting catching job because of his switch-hitting power, said he definitely could see why Mattingly felt he was pressing.
"You're on a new team, and you just want to do good, you want to belong here and turn it around at some point," Grandal said. "[Mattingly] just said, you know the numbers will be there. Just relax and play."
Along with that conversation, Mattingly moved Grandal out of the fifth spot in the order and down a few notches, although on Thursday he was hitting second behind hot rookie Joc Pederson.
During a five-game hitting streak, Grandal has three homers, three doubles and 10 RBIs. The eight RBIs were the most in a game for a Dodger since James Loney had nine in Colorado in 2006. Grandal's average has soared to .301. He has also walked three times during this 12-for-17 roll.
"Yaz has got a really good eye, and he sees the ball good," said Mattingly. "He's got to use that and attack. He's a little like Joc. He's got to use the whole field."
Defensively, Grandal caught fill-in starter Carlos Frias, who battled through a tough fourth inning to go five frames for the win (3-0) and another turn on the Dodgers' starting pitcher roulette wheel.
"I thought [Frias] was good," said Mattingly. "He had one inning there, but bounced out of it, settled back down. We've gotten to a point. Obviously, we've got a couple guys [Hyun-Jin Ryu and Brandon McCarthy] down. You look for guys to be consistent. Carlos has been, and I don't see us changing anything right now. I guess a bad couple of outings, you might think differently. As of now, he's keeping us in games, and he'll get the ball again."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.