The reigning National League Cy Young Award winner says, "You can take that 9.20 spring ERA and shove it!"
If you thought the great Clayton Kershaw was going to get roughed up again like he did in Spring Training, think again. It was a clean Kershaw start, pitching 6 2/3 innings, giving up one run on five hits with seven strikeouts, as the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks 3-1.
Last year, if you recall, Kershaw spun his magic both on the mound and at the plate in the opening game, as his solo homer was the difference in beating the Giants 1-0. This time around he settled for a single with two strikeouts, and even was gunned down at second trying to stretch that single in the seventh.
About the only time Kershaw was in any sort of trouble was in the first, when the DBacks put two on. Aaron Hill hit a "single" with an out, which in reality should've been an error at short from Hanley Ramirez. Paul Goldschmidt, who's an absolute animal, singled to left right after, but a couple of groundouts got the Dodgers out of trouble.
The lone run came in the sixth on an RBI groundout from Mark Trumbo to score Goldschmidt, who hit a leadoff double.
Another "if you recall" was how the Dodgers had a horrible time for much of last season giving Kershaw any sort of run support, as he only had 16 wins, far fewer than he should've. So, who would be that guy to step up and give the support in this game? Yasiel Puig? Adrian Gonzalez? Ramirez?
Nope. Scott Van Slyke.
Andy's son had a great game, and if it wasn't for some freaky wind conditions, would've ended up with two homers. He instead settled for a double off the left field wall in the second, then made up for it with a two-run shot that just cleared the wall down the right field line in the fourth. That's great for a guy who was only starting because Carl Crawford and Matt Kemp didn't make the trip.
Heck, he would've been back in the States himself if not for the other two being out. It's funny how things work out sometimes.
With both teams stocking up on their relievers thanks to the "exemption" list, Don Mattingly had no problem pulling Kershaw in the seventh at 102 pitches. Chris Perez got the last out on a fly ball to Puig in right.
Then came what should be an awesome late inning combination to watch throughout the year in Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen. Wilson was perfect in striking out two, and Jansen earned the save with only one walk.
If you were to be told that Kershaw, Perez, Wilson, and Jansen all appeared in the game without knowing to score, I'm guessing you would think the Dodgers won. Sure enough, they did. I'm already excited to keep watching them this year.
We'll wait and see when Kershaw takes the mound next, as the Dodgers open ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball on March 30 in San Diego. Or, he could take the mound in the home opener against the Giants on April 4. Or heck, he could pitch both. If he locates his fastball the way he did today, to go along with his nasty slider, then it doesn't matter who he's facing - they'll be out.
Hyun-Jin Ryu gets the call in the second game, as the Dodgers will look to get greedy and sweep the Australia series. They'll still be the road team.