Words and Photos: Danny Baraz
It was another beautiful day at Dodgers Stadium and Kershaw was making yet another opening day start for the Blue Crew. But for the first time ever, the number 3 hitter for the opposing team was Matt Kemp. After receiving an extended standing ovation from the Dodgers faithful, he stepped into the box and promptly hit an RBI single to right-center which was made possible only by an inexplicable infield shift. Kemp was booed every at bat thereafter. Kershaw, with a no decision was picked up by a 3 run home run in the 8th inning by veteran shortstop, Jimmy Rollins who was acquired in the off season.
The season opening series at the Ravine saw the Dodgers budget cutting picked up’s, out play the Padres “blockbuster” off season moves. What makes this improbable is that they did it with hitting which was projected to be the weakness of this revamped Dodgers team. Adrian Gonzales has had most of the ego’s removed out of the dugout by the Dodgers new front office and the combination of Gonzales/Kendrick is sure to do damage all season- especially if Puig can figure out how to take a few walks and not get thrown out on the bases on a consistent basis. The bubble machine hasn’t made an appearance once yet this season despite a decent amount of home runs coming from the Dodgers line-up, or should I say, Gonzales. I guess the evidence is undeniable; I knew that bubble machine was a god damn distraction.
Last night, with Ryu on the DL, Brandon McCarthy made his Dodger debut a little earlier than expected. He ran the gamut between being super hittable to super dominant by giving up 9 hits but also striking out 9. He also drew a walk with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 2nd from Padres starter, Cashner. That walk scored Crawford who had an equally manic night with 2 hits and 2 strikeouts.
Once again, Mattingly showed his Achilles heel by failing to pull McCarthy after giving up a homerun and the first of 2 doubles hit off of him in the 5th inning. The blunder was obvious to anyone that had an on eye the pitch count which was north of ninety. Whatever though, you can’t blame Mattingly for feeling pressure to win the opener with the Padres or his lack of faith in his bullpen, sans Kenley Janson. Tuesday night’s atypical 1 run performance from Zack Grienke was wasted after Hatcher got shelled and couldn’t pick up his second straight save as a stand in for Jansen. While Mattingly has reason to hesitate taking early trips to the mound, pigs can’t fly if you don’t let them out of the pen. After being solid almost all of last season, I saw the moment last year when Howell started slumping out of the bull pen and Mattingly opted to pull him from the rotation, rather than let him pitch his way through it.
But the man of last night, the series and sure to be National League player of the week was Adrian Gonzales. In three games he is batting .769 with 5 home runs, 7 RBI, 7 runs scored and a slugging percentage of 2.077. Gonzales had 3 solo home runs and an RBI single in game 3 of this series alone. After being the only consistent bat all of last year, Gonzales is poised for an MVP type season. The inconsistent super stars from last year are now wearing different uniforms and the mood seems lighter in the dugout while the Dodgers organization’s wallet is verifiably heavier. I might have named them NL Player of the week but it’s too early in the season to praise their bold offseason moves and the lack of a TV deal puts them right in the cellar, in my book.
The Dodgers are off tonight as they head to Arizona for a 3 game series with the Diamondbacks. Another great storyline here as we see if the Dodgers batters will continue to be bait for the wayward pitches that have been plunking our hitters for the last two seasons.