Matt Kemp Shines in Return to LA Dodgers Lineup

Tim Keeney@@t_keenContributor ISeptember 18, 2013

He's baaaack—one "a" for every hit Matt Kemp recorded in his return to the Los Angeles Dodgers starting lineup on Tuesday night. 

It has been a tumultuous year for L.A.'s 28-year-old center fielder, and that's putting it lightly. 

He followed up a dreadful—by his elite standards—April (.260/.318/.344 with one home run, 11 RBI and an 8/25 BB/SO ratio) with an even worse May (.242/.291/.326 with one home run, six RBI and a 6/33 BB/SO ratio), and before he could continue that downward spiral, he was sent to the DL with a right hamstring strain. 

Kemp returned for 10 games in late June and early July, showing flashes of his old self before, once again, being placed on the disabled list, this time with a shoulder injury. 

He was then activated for one game on July 21, but he injured his ankle after recording three hits and went right back to the DL, where he remained for nearly two months. 

All in all, the first five-plus months saw Kemp go .269/.319/.382 with nearly as many DL stints (three) as home runs (five). 

After pinch-hitting on Monday, however, he made his long-awaited return to the starting lineup on Tuesday, hitting fifth in the center field slot:

And, apparently, the third DL stint was a charm, because Kemp exploded, churning out a massive night against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

He went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a run and three RBI before being pulled for pinch-runner Skip Schumaker in the top of the seventh:

It took him little time to get back into the swing of things, putting L.A. up in the first inning with a two-run double down the left-field line:

If this is a sign that Kemp is back to his near-MVP 2011 (or even All-Star 2012) form instead of his replacement-level-player 2013 form, the Dodgers will be getting a crucial boost heading into the postseason. 

Despite Matt Kemp's struggles and onslaught of maladies, they have still managed to compile an 87-64 record and a comfortable lead in the NL West.

As MLB's Twitter feed pointed out, there haven't been many instances in which Kemp has been in the same lineup as shortstop Hanley Ramirez, who has put together a monster season:

In fact, this was just the ninth game all year that Kemp, Ramirez, Yasiel Puig and Adrian Gonzalez have featured in the same lineup. 

Should the Dodgers continue to roll out that quartet in October, and should Kemp stay healthy, they are going to be a very difficult out.