Kemp nearing return; Jackson K's career high

Braves targeting Friday for slugger's possible return

Kemp nearing return; Jackson K's career high

ST. LOUIS -- Outfielder Matt Kemp, on the disabled list for the second time this season due to a right hamstring strain, is getting closer to returning.

Braves manager Brian Snitker said Saturday that Kemp could be activated Friday.

"It will be good to get him back in there, just the whole presence thing," Snitker said. "Having him back would be big for our lineup."

Kemp has been working toward his return, which includes on-field drills and rehab work, hitting and baserunning. He was on the field early at Busch Stadium on Saturday doing baserunning work.

Booth on Kemp's rehab

"He's been hitting in a group," Snitker said. "He's been hitting inside and then hitting [on the field], too. He's been hitting for a while. He's been conditioning really well. He's out here running the bases and all that, and he looks good. The day-in, day-out thing is a different animal than working out today and taking tomorrow off. Everything's pointing in the right direction."

Kemp is hitting .290 with 21 doubles, one triple, 14 homers, 48 RBIs, 40 runs scored and .336 OBP in 88 games this season. He hit 35 homers and drove in 108 runs split between the Padres and Braves last season.

Jackson strikes out career-high six in relief

Luke Jackson isn't sure what happened.

The Braves' rookie right-handed reliever entered Friday night's game with 21 strikeouts this season, then proceeded to strike out six of the seven batters he faced, working efficiently with catcher Kurt Suzuki and dominating a red-hot Cardinals lineup for 2 1/3 innings.

Jackson's solid relief apperance

"It was good," Snitker said. "It was real efficient, a perfect outing for him. It's exactly what we needed, gave us a chance to get back in the ballgame."

So what happened?

"'Zuk' put down the right fingers is what happened," Jackson said. "I mean, it's one of those days where things are working, things are clicking. Zuk's just throwing down money signs left and right, so I can't thank him enough for that."

The 25-year-old hurler, who was acquired from the Rangers in exchange for pitchers Brady Feigl and Tyrell Jenkins last December, entered Friday's game with 30 strikeouts in 48 appearances over three Major League seasons.

Jackson's six strikeouts were the most by a Braves reliever since Cristhian Martinez struck out six in 2001. He joins Mike Bielecki as the only two Braves relievers to strike out six batters in 2 1/3 innings or less, with Bielecki achieving that feat back in 1996. He's also the first Major League relief pitcher since Dellin Betances in 2014 to strike out six batters in 2 1/3 innings while facing the minimum amount of batters (seven).

"I struck out six guys in about three months, so to strike out six guys in one night is kind of interesting," Jackson said. "I've been working on a slider, and it was working last night. Came out there just trying to make some pitches down a couple runs, try to keep the team in it, and Zuk called the right ones at the right time."

Nate Latsch is a contributor to based in St. Louis and covered the Braves on Saturday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.