Battling toothache, rookie notches 3 hits after being recalled Sunday
By Jordan Ray
HOUSTON -- It's been a wild 24 hours for rookie Tony Kemp, who made sparks fly in the Astros' 5-3, 11-inning loss to the Rangers on Sunday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
Battling a nasty toothache, the 24-year-old was out of Triple-A Fresno's lineup Saturday night when the Grizzlies got word that the Astros were recalling Kemp to replace injured outfielder Colby Rasmus, who went on the 15-day DL with a cyst in his right ear.
"Our manager, Tony DeFrancesco, told me before the game, so that was probably the longest game I've ever had to sit through," said Kemp, ranked by MLBPipeline.com as the Astros' No. 16 prospect. "Just kind of waiting to catch the flight, catch the red-eye to get here."
Kemp later hopped on a plane from Las Vegas to Houston, not even having enough time to get his tooth fixed until Sunday morning, just before the Astros took on the Rangers.
"He's giving me shots in my mouth," Kemp said, "and I'm wondering if I'm gonna get a pinch-hit in the sixth inning."
With limited preparation and Houston trailing, 3-0, Kemp did get to pinch-hit, not in the sixth, but in the eighth, and the 5-foot-6 Vanderbilt product came up with three singles.
Kemp led off the eighth with his first single, later scoring on an RBI double from fellow rookie Alex Bregman to put Houston's first run on the board.
"More times than not, he's going to put the ball in play," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's going to compete. He's got a small strike zone, and he knows it."
Looking to outdo himself, Kemp knocked a game-tying RBI single over second base in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game to extra innings tied at 3.
"That's the loudest I think I've ever heard Minute Maid," Kemp said. "That was something I'll cherish forever."
Kemp added one more single in the 11th on a ball that deflected off Matt Bush's glove to allow Kemp to reach first. Kemp's fireworks were a welcome addition to a Houston offense that has struggled for the past week.
The three hits were a career high for Kemp and raised his batting average from .238 to .289. To top it off, Kemp's performance earned him some more playing time.
"He'll be in the lineup tomorrow," Hinch said.
And when Kemp was asked where he's comfortable playing?
"Anywhere," he said. "It doesn't matter. Even if he wants to put me on left-bench, I'll be good at that."
Jordan Ray is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.