Braves outfielder becomes 32nd active player to reach mark, adds diving catch to nice night
By Pat James
ATLANTA -- The Turner Field crowd roared and Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy applauded, but it wasn't until Matt Kemp looked up at the center-field scoreboard that he realized why.
After leading off the bottom of the second inning with a double off Max Scherzer, the Braves outfielder turned around and saw the message on the screen congratulating him on the 1,500th hit of his Major League career.
"I honestly did not know I was that close to 1,500 hits," said Kemp after Friday's 7-2 loss to the Nationals. "I don't think people really look at that. I just looked at the JumboTron and was like, 'Wow, OK. Cool.'
"For me, I just thought I needed 1,500 more."
The double marked Kemp's fourth hit in 37 career at-bats vs. Scherzer. And with it, the 31-year-old became just the 32nd active player to join the 1,500-hit club.
But Kemp wasn't finished making his mark on the game.
With one out in the top of the sixth, Stephen Drew hit an 0-2 curveball from Ryan Weber deep into left-center. The ball appeared destined to fall for an extra-base hit. But Kemp sprinted toward the gap and made a diving grab for the second out in the inning.
Although he's committed only one error since joining the Braves, Kemp's range in left field has created some concern at times. But the two-time Gold Glove winner provided a glimpse of his former self with Friday's catch.
"Yeah, it's still a little different than right and center," said Kemp, when asked if he's starting to feel comfortable in left field. "But I'm getting better every day."
Kemp has also looked the part of a two-time All-Star at the plate in recent weeks after batting just .233 through his first 27 games since being acquired from the Padres on July 30.
With his 2-for-4 effort on Friday, the outfielder is batting .369 (24-for-65) with four doubles, five homers, 13 runs scored and 14 RBIs since Aug. 31. He's registered a hit in eight straight games and scored a run in seven consecutive contests.
Atlanta's offense has benefited greatly from Kemp's presence, scoring 5.1 runs per game through his first 42 in a Braves uniform.
But after making an impact on Atlanta's overall lineup by hitting behind first baseman Freddie Freeman, Kemp's started to distinguish himself.
"He's been great," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "He's been having a heck of a year. Any time you're going to have 30 [homers] and 100 [RBIs], it's been a pretty good year. I've said a million times what he's added to our lineup, but he's just having a really good year."
Pat James is a reporter for MLB.com based in Atlanta. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.