- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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SAN FRANCISCO -- For the second consecutive game, Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp was out of the starting lineup on Monday night against the San Francisco Giants. And for the second consecutive game, Dodgers manager Joe Torre was coy as to the reason.
"I just decided to give him another day," Torre said before the game.
When asked whether Kemp would return to the lineup on Tuesday night against the Giants, Torre was non-committal.
"We'll see," he said. "We're trying to get on a little bit of a run. If we had won [Sunday] night, it would have been three out of four. I think we have been playing a little better. Hopefully, we're building something now, and we'll see if we can get on a run."
Kemp did come in for defense in the ninth inning of Monday's 4-2 win.
Reed Johnson got the start in center field for the second day in a row, partly because he went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and two runs scored in Sunday night's loss to the New York Yankees and partly because the Dodgers were facing Giants left-hander Barry Zito -- Johnson came into the game hitting .368 against left-handers this season, with a .400 on-base percentage. He went 1-for-4 with a run Monday.
Kemp came in hitting .457 (16 for 35) for his career against Zito, but has become noticeably susceptible to breaking balls low and away, a pitch he had largely learned to lay off of during the second half of last season that he now chases with regularity. As a result, pitchers have routinely attacked him with a steady diet of breaking balls, and Zito is a pitcher who relies heavily on them.
Kemp wouldn't admit to being curious about Torre's decision.
"I don't worry about that," he said before the game. "I just show up at the park and check the lineup."
With that, Kemp walked away from a pair of reporters who had approached him and retreated into the trainer's room.
A source close to the Dodgers, speaking on the condition of anonymity, indicated that there is growing frustration with Kemp's season-long lack of production at the plate, coupled with the fact that he doesn't seem to be getting any better.
The source was quick to emphasize, though, than any frustration with Kemp is strictly related to on-field performance.
Kemp entered the Giants series hitting .258 overall and a ghastly .196 in June, with only two of his 12 home runs having come this month. In his three most recent starts, on Thursday night against the Los Angeles Angels and Friday and Saturday against the New York Yankees, he struck out eight times in 14 plate appearances, with seven of those strikeouts having been of the swinging variety.
Moreover, Kemp's baserunning has been called into question of late, not only because he has been successful on only 10 of his 20 stolen-base attempts but also after he was picked off second base in the ninth inning of last Wednesday night's loss to the Angels at a point when the Dodgers trailed by one run. Torre made a point after that game of stressing Kemp's baserunning mistake in his comments to the media, as well as another baserunning gaffe by catcher Russell Martin later in the same inning that was even costlier.
Kemp was inserted into Sunday night's game against the Yankees in the 10th inning after Garret Anderson was ejected for arguing with plate umpire Chris Guccione, but Kemp's spot in the batting order never came up in that game.
Torre said closer Jonathan Broxton, who threw 19 pitches against the Yankees on Saturday and 48 against them on Sunday, both in non-save situations, won't be available until Wednesday. Left-hander Hong-Chih Kuo was used in a closer situation on Monday, earning the save.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.