Matt Kemp was benched over an argument with a coach

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Joe Torre failed to start Matt Kemp for three straight games this week, and when he was asked about it he was kind of coy. The impression given was that he was giving Kemp some time off in order for him to regroup and find a way out of his season-long slump. Dylan Hernandez reports, however, that it was much less zen than that: Kemp was being punished.

Why? Because during Saturday’s game with the Yankees he failed to back up second base when Russell Martin threw to try and nail and Derek Jeter, whole was stealing on the play.  When the throw skipped, Kemp wasn’t there and Jeter scampered on to third base.

The problem came after the inning when bench coach Bob Schaefer tried to remind Kemp of his defensive responsibilities on steals, Kemp was dismissive and Torre subsequently decided that Kemp needed some time off.

True Blue L.A. had a great post recently analyzing Kemp’s struggles this year, and determined that they were mostly a function of speed: he’s getting caught stealing, he’s hitting into double plays, he’s not getting infield hits and he’s not tracking down fly balls.

One possibility is that he’s lost a step or has an injury or something. Another possibility — made more likely in my mind given Hernandez’s story — is that Kemp just isn’t all that motivated to bust his ass like he has in the past.

Astros stave off AL West elimination, beat the Diamondbacks

Colby Rasmus, Gary Pettis
AP Photo

Facing an elimination number of one, the Astros staved off elimination in the AL West by beating the Diamondbacks on Friday night by a 6-1 margin. The Rangers suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Angels on Saturday afternoon, which temporarily put the Astros’ fate in their own hands.

Colby Rasmus hit a pair of solo homers and Jose Altuve added a solo shot of his own. Starter Collin McHugh tossed seven innings of one-run ball, limiting the Diamondbacks to six hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Reliever Will Harris allowed a solo home run to Paul Goldschmidt in the eighth, but Luke Gregerson closed out the game with a scoreless ninth.

The Astros trail the Rangers by one game in the AL West and lead the Angels by one game for the second AL Wild Card slot. The Rangers can clinch the AL West on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Astros loss. The Astros can clinch the second AL Wild Card on Sunday afternoon with a win or an Angels loss.

The Yankees lost both ends of Saturday’s doubleheader against the Orioles and lead the Astros by only one game for the first AL Wild Card slot.

If the Astros win and the Rangers lose on Sunday, they will play an AL West tiebreaker in Texas. The winner will win the second AL Wild Card if the Yankees win on Sunday, or the first AL Wild Card if the Yankees lose on Sunday.

If the Astros lose and the Angels win on Sunday, the two teams will be tied for the second AL Wild Card. They would play a tiebreaker in Houston, and the winner would play the Yankees in New York in the Wild Card game.

Video: Kelby Tomlinson slides in for an inside-the-park home run

Kelby Tomlinson
AP Photo
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Giants second baseman Kelby Tomlinson looked more like Ladainian Tomlinson the way he was running during Saturday afternoon’s game against the Rockies. In the first inning with one out against starter Chris Rusin, Tomlinson hit a fly ball into the right-center field gap at AT&T Park, a great place to go if you’re in the mood for an inside-the-park home run.

Neither Carlos Gonzalez nor Chris Dickerson could corral the ball before it rolled all the way to the 421-foot marker at the fence. Tomlinson motored around the bases, but Gonzalez made a strong throw into cut-off man D.J. LeMahieu, and LeMahieu made a great throw in to catcher Tom Murphy, but Tomlinson slid in safely just ahead of the tag.

It was an exciting play and the hit proved important as the Giants eked out a 3-2 win against the Rockies.