Two of Major League Baseball's top outfielders returned to action Friday after lengthy breaks due to injury: the Red Sox' Jacoby Ellsbury and the Dodgers' Matt Kemp. Both players finished 2011 as MVP runner-up in their respective leagues.
Ellsbury, who had not played since April 13 due to a shoulder injury, went 1-for-5 in the Red Sox' 3-1 win over the Rays. Kemp had a bit more success, going 2-for-4 with a double against the Padres, but the end result was the same, as the Dodgers won 2-1.
Kemp was playing like an MVP when he went down with a hamstring injury on May 13. He had a .359 batting average, .446 on-base percentage and .726 slugging percentage. He was a major reason why the Dodgers had the best record in baseball through the season's first two months. Kemp did return to play a pair of games on May 29-30, but from there, he proceeded to miss an additional 37 contests. So far in 2012, the Dodgers are 24-13 with Kemp in the lineup and 24-27 without him.
It's a much smaller sample with Ellsbury, as he has played just eight games this season, but the Sox are 3-5 with him and 41-38 without him to this point.
Both teams are currently in the thick of playoff races, with the Dodgers holding a half-game lead in the National League West and the Red Sox just 1 1/2 games back of the second American League wild card spot. Which player will have a bigger impact on his team's fortunes in the season's second half?