LOS ANGELES -- It would've just been a fine defensive play that would have been forgotten had the Dodgers lost Saturday night. But with the team mounting a comeback in the ninth inning, Matt Kemp's play in center field to throw out Yadier Molina at third base proved to be a difference-maker in their walk-off, 4-3 win.
After getting choked up Saturday night when talking about it, manager Don Mattingly couldn't help himself again Sunday morning as he was still in awe over the defensive gem.
Mattingly thinks it could be the sort of play that gets both Kemp and the team going.
"It's total, all-out effort of not wanting to lose a game," the skipper said. "If he gets to third base, we probably don't win that game."
With nobody out in the ninth inning, Kemp crashed into the center-field wall after narrowly missing a Molina deep fly ball. He picked himself up and raced back to throw out Molina with an off-balanced throw.
The play came minutes after Kemp ended the eighth inning with a groundout after striking out in his first three at-bats. The center fielder is just 2-for-14 since sitting out the final two games against San Francisco last week, which came as a result of a pair of crashes into the wall at the end of August in Colorado.
"It moves me," Mattingly said. "It's one of the best plays I think I've ever seen considering all the circumstances of him hitting the wall before, him having a bad night, he's been struggling, we're down a run. To me, that's greatness, I love it."
As for his offensive struggles, Mattingly on Saturday before the game considered giving the slugger a mental day off Sunday with a day game. But after a play like the one he made on Molina, Mattingly wanted to keep him in the lineup.
Injuries elevate Beckett's status with Dodgers
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are all of a sudden without a No. 1 pitcher with Clayton Kershaw out indefinitely with right hip pain that could end his season.
The lefty will meet with Dr. Bryan Kelly in New York on Tuesday for a second opinion and, based on persistent symptoms, he may need surgery for a labral tear. Teammate Jerry Hairston underwent a similar surgery in Vail, Colo., on Monday that requires three to five months to recover.
In the meantime, manager Don Mattingly is waiting for the news before committing to a rotation down the stretch.
"We'll just see," he said. "That is all going to be up in the air."
Chad Billingsley, who was pitching lights out in the second half, is already done for the season with a sore right elbow, and Ted Lilly has been out since May with surgery coming.
The uncertainty about Kershaw and injuries to the rotation moves newly acquired Josh Beckett into the role of staff ace.
"For the most part, you've got to look at Josh," said Mattingly, who added he will go with whoever matches up best if the time comes. "I think we have to. He's the guy that has pitched the most big games, but our guys have all thrown the ball pretty well.
"[Chris Capuano] has probably struggled as much as anybody the second half, but he's capable of going out and throwing zeros for us."
Beckett is 7-3 with a 3.07 ERA in the playoffs through 14 games and 13 starts with a World Series MVP on his resume.
After posting a 5.23 ERA and 5-11 record with the Red Sox this season, Beckett has looked good since joining the Dodgers. He's 1-2 with a 3.38 ERA in four starts.
Rookie Stephen Fife started Sunday in Kershaw's place, and Mattingly said he would likely go with a four-man rotation if the days off permit.
Mattingly promised he wouldn't pitch Kershaw this season if there's any chance of further damage, no matter the game.
Late-inning arms leading stellar Dodgers bullpen
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' bullpen should be at full strength when the team takes on the Nationals on Tuesday on the road as closer Kenley Jansen and lefty Scott Elbert are expected back.
In their absence, the rest of the bullpen has filled in more than admirably and manager Don Mattingly has been pleased with the job his relievers have done lately.
"Guys have really stepped up," Mattingly said.
"They've been good. They've hung in there and they've kept us in a lot of games. They've done a great job so far."
Dodgers relievers have allowed just two runs in their last 19 2/3 innings since Sept. 8 and four of them combined to throw 3 1/3 innings Saturday night after inheriting a jam from Joe Blanton.
Most notable have been the performances of the three late-inning relievers Mattingly has called upon -- Jamey Wright, Ronald Belisario and Brandon League.
Wright, who has been thrust into a much more pressure-filled role with Jansen out, has made 10 consecutive scoreless appearances and opposing batters are hitting just .147 (5-for-34) in that span.
League and Belisario, who both have closing experience, have split time in that role and they've both excelled.
Belisario hasn't given up a run since Aug. 17 through 16 1/3 innings and he's thrown 15 strikeouts in that stretch. League has held opposing batters to a .116 average (5-for-43) and he's allowed just one run in 13 1/3 innings since Aug. 21.
Alex Angert is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.