Monday, April 1, 2013

There's Clayton Kershaw, and then there's everybody else

Can you say "$200 million"?

After watching Clayton Kershaw completely dominate the Giants on both sides of the field Opening Day, it's not hard to imagine him getting a record deal for a pitcher.  He's simply in his own world at the young age of 25.

Kershaw threw a complete game, four-hit shutout on Monday, but that may not have even been his biggest feat of the day.  He broke open a scoreless tie in the eighth with a solo home run, a shot to dead center, and the Dodgers cruised from there over the world champs, 4-0.  On a day where Sandy Koufax threw the ceremonial first pitch, everything was as perfect as could be at Dodger Stadium.

Lost in all the "Kershawmania" was the starting pitcher of the Giants, one Mr. Matt Cain, who was pretty darn good himself.  He made it through six innings of scoreless ball, striking out eight on four hits.

What got Cain out of there so early was the first inning in which he hurled 29 pitches, although the Dodgers never actually scored a run.  Carl Crawford began his Dodger career with a scorcher to first that Brandon Belt couldn't handle for a leadoff single.  Mark Ellis was beaned before Matt Kemp struck out in a long at-bat.  Crawford was then gunned down trying to steal third, and after Adrian Gonzalez walked, Andre Ethier K'd to end the inning.

Both pitchers were locked in from there, as this game was flying right by.  The Dodgers did get a couple on in the fourth on singles by Gonzalez and Ethier, but little popups by Luis Cruz and A.J. Ellis spoiled the threat.

Off to the eighth we went, and the biggest question seemed to be if Kershaw would be allowed to hit, or if Don Mattingly would yank him leading off.  Mattingly became quite the genius when he let his ace hit for himself, and a monster home run was smashed to center to make it 1-0 off of George Kontos.

Crawford continued his solid day by lining a double to left, and runners were put on the corners on a bunt by Mark Ellis just out of the outstretched arm of Buster Posey.  A wild pitch by new pitcher Santiago Casilla made it 2-0.

The final couple of runs were scored in the eighth on RBI groundouts by Ethier and A.J. Ellis.

Much like two years ago when the Dodgers beat the Giants on Opening Day, this win was everything they could have asked for.  A big start by their ace?  Check.  Clutch hitting when they needed it?  Check.  Taking down the world champs?  Check.  It's all good.

Now the talk will turn to the new contract Kershaw is expected to ink at some point.  As was mentioned during the ESPN broadcast by former Dodger great Orel Hershiser, you have to believe that he'll become baseball's first $200 million pitcher.  King Felix gets $175 million, Justin Verlander gets $180 million, now it's Kershaw's turn.  Perhaps he'll get bumped another $5 million to stay consistent, but then again, the Dodgers have money in places nobody knew existed.  It can definitely happen.

And why not?  Kershaw is as big a competitor as there is.  He's only 25 and is clearly just getting better.  How many pitchers would've been satisfied with their eight shutout innings and called it a day?  Not Kershaw.  He took his bat and gave his team the lead for good.  He's just incredible.

As for the rest of the team, Crawford and Mark Ellis each got two hits atop the order.  That's good news for the heart of the order in Kemp, Gonzalez, and Ethier.  Those guys didn't do much today, but if they have people ahead of them getting on base consistently, it will only be a matter of time before their numbers start to take off.

With Opening Day in the books, and one for the ages at that, the Dodgers will now turn to Korean sensation Hyun-Jin Ryu in the second game of the season.  He is the surprising second starter, but that's mostly because Zack Greinke got pushed back a bit after some elbow problems in the spring.  His debut will be fun to watch, but it won't be easy, as the Giants counter with their own stud lefty, Madison Bumgarner.

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