Cincinnati Reds: Matt Kemp needs to ride last night’s momentum

CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 09: Matt Kemp #27 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a single during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - APRIL 09: Matt Kemp #27 of the Cincinnati Reds hits a single during the third inning against the Miami Marlins at Great American Ball Park on April 9, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images) /
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Matt Kemp’s bat finally woke up during the Cincinnati Reds’ victory over the Miami Marlins on Tuesday night. That offensive explosion needs to continue if Kemp hopes to stay in the lineup.

It finally happened. Matt Kemp, who’s been a controversial add to this year’s Cincinnati Reds team, finally got his first home run of the season last night against the Marlins. If Kemp hopes to keep his spot in the lineup, he’ll have to continue to produce as Jesse Winker and Scott Schebler are heating up as well.

Matt Kemp was 2-for-5 last night. He racked up 3 RBIs last night after his 3-run blast in the 6th inning plated Jesse Winker and Joey Votto. Kemp was 2-for-22 heading into last night’s game. With Yasiel Puig suspended for his role in Sunday’s dustup, Kemp took his spot in the No. 3 hole.

Kemp did strikeout once, but that’s an improvement from his previous 22 at-bats that included 10 punch outs. While it was good to see Kemp get off the schneid, the fact that Winker and Schebler had a productive evening puts even more pressure on Kemp to continue to produce when he’s in the lineup.

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This isn’t meant to sound as though I’m railing on the Reds’ slugger. In fact, I think he has the potential to hit 25-plus home runs this season. But, with the young outfield talent on this team, combined with the fact that he is on a one-year deal, if Kemp can’t give the Reds some consistent offense, I’d rather see the young guys get their opportunity to play.

Personally, I’d like to see Jesse Winker get the lion’s share of starts in left field and when the pitching matchup favors Kemp, insert him into the lineup. Kemp, for his career, is much better against left-handed pitching. It’s also an area where Jesse Winker struggles.

Over his career, Kemp has slashed .314/.373/.539 against southpaw with an OPS+ of 121. Versus right-handed pitchers, Kemp has a .275 lifetime batting average and an OPS+ of 92. Still not bad, but I’d prefer to see Winker’s slash line of .308/.400/.478 when a right-hander is on the mound.

Winker’s OPS+ against right-handers is 113, but a paltry 47 against lefties. That stat right there is enough for me to put Kemp in the lineup every time a left-handed starter is on the mound. Kemp launched his first home run of the season off the left-hander Wei-Yen Chen after the Marlin’s hurler relieved Jose Urena.

If Matt Kemp can sustain the offensive output we saw last night, by all means the veteran should get his share of time in the lineup. However, if his bat goes quiet again, there’s just too many other options for the Cincinnati Reds to sit around and wait for him to heat up again.

Kemp will definitely get a shot to repeat last night’s performance with Yasiel Puig still suspended. Of course, if Schebler and Winker don’t maintain their level of hitting that seems to be revving up, there’s always the possibility of them losing playing time as well.

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The outfield rotation is a tough nut to crack and the amount of talent is a good problem to have. The problem will become even bigger once Nick Senzel returns from injury. For now, we’ll just enjoy last night’s victory and hope for more of the same tonight against the Marlins.