LOS ANGELES — Matt Kemp returned to his old stomping grounds and delivered the kind of majestic home run he was known for during his nine seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. And it brought him a great deal of satisfaction.
Kemp hit a tiebreaking three-run shot in the eighth inning, and the San Diego Padres beat the three-time NL West champions 5-1 on Friday night to snap a five-game losing streak.
“I think anybody if they were playing against their old team would — somewhere they’ve been for so long,” said Kemp, who joined the Padres in a multi-player trade that brought catcher Yasmani Grandal to Los Angeles in December 2014. “I like the energy in this ballpark. It’s a good stadium, the fans are loud, and people feed off of that.”
Chris Hatcher (2-3) walked pinch-hitter Brett Wallace leading off the eighth, and Jon Jay followed with a bouncing single off the pitcher’s right leg that caromed past diving third baseman Justin Turner and sent pinch-runner Travis Jankowski to third.
One out later, Kemp drove an 0-2 pitch into the Dodgers’ bullpen in left for his seventh homer of the season — and the third allowed by Hatcher in 10 2/3 innings. Kemp had just five RBI in his previous 16 games, after totaling 10 over a two-game stretch on April 8-9 at Colorado.
“We knew we were in the game, and our pitchers gave us a chance to win,” Kemp said. “We pulled through and got it done. I’m just feeling good and seeing the ball well. It’s as simple as that.”
Ryan Buchter (1-0) pitched two-thirds of an inning to get the victory.
Cesar Vargas allowed four hits over 5 1/3 innings in his second major league start for San Diego. The 24-year-old right-hander threw 90 pitches and was lifted by manager Andy Green after retiring Yasiel Puig on a foul pop to open the sixth.
“We thought he did his job,” Green said. “The last time, we let him go through five with about the same number of pitches. He hasn’t started for long, so the thought of pushing him up over a hundred pitches right now is not in his best interests. You’ve got to protect him to some degree.”
Grandal greeted lefty Brad Hand with his first homer of the season, a drive into the lower stands in the left field corner. Hand was claimed off waivers from the Marlins this month.
“If we waited another batter and then brought in Brad, they would have countered with a pinch-hitter for (Carl) Crawford, and they would have gotten the matchup they wanted. So going on Grandal right there with Brad allowed us to have the matchup with the lefites the rest of the way through, the way we wanted it.”
Alex Wood yielded one run and five hits through seven innings with nine strikeouts and a walk for the Dodgers. The left-hander was coming off a no-decision at Colorado in which he gave up five runs in five innings before his teammates got him off the hook with five runs in the ninth and won 12-10.
“He was just throwing every pitch with conviction,” Grandal said. “He wasn’t thinking too much, just pitching his game. He turned the corner, turned the page after the start in Colorado. So this was a really good outing for him going forward. I’m hopeful that he’s going to get through the year giving us good outings like this.”
Los Angeles had won nine straight against the Padres, including a season-opening three-game series at San Diego in which the Dodgers outscored their NL West rivals 25-0.
The Dodgers had thrown 32 consecutive scoreless innings against the Padres until Justin Upton Jr. opened the scoring in the fourth with an RBI single after Kemp doubled off the fence in center field.
“Honestly, I just feel like we needed that win as a team. That’s the most important thing,” Kemp said. “We had a bad series at home and they shut us out, so it was good to come in here and get the first game. We played some good baseball, got some good defense and some good pitching. Hopefully we can feed off that and do the same thing tomorrow.”
Padres: RHP Jon Edwards, sidelined by an elbow injury, threw from a distance of 120 feet and did not feel any pain. He is scheduled for one more flat-ground session before he’ll be allowed to get on a mound. … LHP Matt Thornton, on the DL because of left Achilles tendinitis, has a bullpen session lined up for Saturday.
Dodgers: OF Andre Ethier, who hasn’t played this season after fouling a pitch off his left shin during spring training, is scheduled to undergo cardiovascular, non-weight-bearing activity shortly and is expected to be activated sometime in June.
Padres: RHP Colin Rea (1-1) made his first appearance of the season with an inning of relief against the Dodgers in the Padres’ 15-0 loss. He has made four starts since with a 4.87 ERA.
Dodgers: Ross Stripling (0-1), who held San Francisco hitless through 7 1/3 innings in his big league debut on April 8, will be making his fifth start after a 3-2 loss to Miami on Monday.