Report: The Nationals are interested in Matt Kemp

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The Nationals would have interest in acquiring Matt Kemp should the Dodgers make him available in a trade, a baseball source tells Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post.

According to Kilgore, the team’s potential interest in Kemp and other free agent outfielders indicates that the club is looking at a creative solution should the club fail to re-sign Adam Dunn this winter. 

Kemp’s star faded a bit this season, as he compiled a disappointing .249/.310/.450 batting line to go along with 28 homers and 89 RBI. The 26-year-old was an above average defender in center field in 2009 according to UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating), but his -24.3 UZR this season ranked last among qualified outfielders. He was also just 19-for-34 (56 percent) in stolen base attempts, which is actually worse than Nyjer Morgan’s success rate.

Kemp avoided arbitration by signing a two-year, $10.95 million contract with the Dodgers in January, so he is still owed $6.95 million in 2011 and remains under team control through the 2012 season.

Amid the drama of his 2010 campaign, Kemp’s agent Dave Stewart indicated to Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times that a trade could be a good idea for his client. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti told Buster Olney of ESPN.com last week that he is not looking to trade Kemp, but would listen to offers. Kemp still has the potential to be one of the better all-around players int the league, so the Nationals won’t be only team calling.    

A.J. Hinch: “We’ll use every pitcher in Game 7 if we have to”

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It’s not entirely clear why the Astros threw Ken Giles into the ninth inning of Game 6 of the ALCS. With a six-run advantage and the bottom half of the Yankees’ lineup due up, pushing the series to its seven-game capacity looked like a sure bet. Giles may be one of Houston’s better bullpen arms, but he’s not their only option, and it would have made more sense to keep him fresh for a do-or-die Game 7 on Saturday night.

Of course, there’s no such thing as a sure bet when it comes to postseason baseball. That’s more or less what Astros’ manager A.J. Hinch had to say after the game, telling reporters that he had envisioned a quick three outs from his closer as they tried to pull back from the brink of elimination. “We didn’t have the luxury of limping into that inning,” Hinch said. “We’ve seen how these guys can explode in these innings.”

It’s not difficult to recall the Yankees’ explosive drive in the eighth inning of Game 4, when they exploited the holes in Houston’s ‘pen and evened the series with Gary Sanchez‘s go-ahead double off of Giles. Back home in Minute Maid Park, however, there was a slightly different feel to the eighth and ninth innings of Game 6. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a solo home run, followed by Alex Bregman‘s two-run double and Evan Gattis‘ sac fly. In the ninth, Giles labored through a 23-pitch outing to lock down the win, handing out a base hit and a seven-pitch walk before eventually whiffing Chase Headley on three straight pitches for the last out.

So, while Hinch’s decision to lean on Giles in Game 6 may have felt wasteful, his concerns were not entirely unfounded. He’s prepared to roll with the same strategy during Saturday’s series finale, too, leaving nothing on the table as the Astros battle for their first World Series showdown since 2005. According to Dallas Keuchel, that means all hands on deck — except for Justin Verlander, whose four wins, 24 strikeouts and 1.46 postseason ERA have gotten the Astros as far as he could possibly be expected to take them. “No pitcher is going to be in the dugout,” said Keuchel. “They’re all going to be in the bullpen, myself included. Any way we can help out, we’re trying to get to the World Series, the same way the Yankees are, and that’s a nice feeling to have.”

Does that mean Giles will be available for a Game 7 appearance? Stranger things have happened. Joe Sheehan notes that the right-hander has pitched in back-to-back days 13 times this year, though he’s never thrown as many as 23 pitches on Day 1. Granted, he likely doesn’t have enough left in the tank for another 20+ pitch run on Saturday, but with the World Series on the line, any help he can offer will be invaluable.