Tuesday, April 7, 2015

A lot went right on Opening Day

There was a lot of "new" in the air at Dodger Stadium on Opening Day.  New center fielder, new double play combination, new closer, and new rival in Matt Kemp.  There was also some "new" in Clayton Kershaw watching him give up three runs (the nerve of him!). 

But here's what was to like about the squad after beating the Padres 6-3.

* I have to start with the guy leading off, Jimmy Rollins.  He led off the game with a single, walked and stole second in his next at-bat, then provided the dramatics in his fifth AB.  With the score tied at three and two runners on, he whacked the eight pitch of the AB out to deep right for a three-run shot.  He was brought there for veteran, championship leadership, and after one game, he's already paying off.

* Kershaw is indeed human, though he deserved better than three runs over six innings.  Juan Uribe took too long to play a slow bouncer by Derek Norris with two outs in the sixth, leading to an infield single.  It was more like a "mental error" than a hit.  Sure enough, old friend Kemp gave the Padres a 3-2 lead with a two-run double.  Kershaw still struck out nine, and it was encouraging to see the offense pick him up when he wasn't at his best.

* Twice the Dodgers were down (1-0 and 3-2) and twice they came back to tie the score, and Rollins's homer grabbed the lead for good.

* The biggest question mark going into the season?  The bullpen, no doubt, especially with Kenley Jansen on the shelf for a month or so.  For one game at least, they were fantastic.  Yimi Garcia struck out two in an inning, Joel Peralta worked a scoreless eighth, and Chris Hatcher got the save thanks to a double play ball and a strikeout to end the game.

* Adrian Gonzalez continues to put up numbers quietly.  People thought he was washed up a few seasons ago after shoulder surgery zapped much of his power during a disappointing stint with the Red Sox.  On Monday he was 3-for-5 with a solo homer, double, and two runs.  Throw in Gold Glove defense, and I get the feeling he can play until he's 50.

* The other part of the double play combination, Howie Kendrick, had two hits, including the game-tying double in the seventh.  I was surprised to see him hit cleanup and not Puig, but Don Mattingly clearly likes Kendrick's ability to drive in runs when the pressure is on.  So far, he's right.

* Joe Pederson got his first taste as an everyday Big Leaguer, and he responded with a hit, walk, run scored, and diving catch.  Not a bad first day, and can only get better.

So as I said, there was plenty to like.  Zack Greinke will look to keep the good times rolling when he takes on Tyson Ross on Tuesday night.  We all know how good Greinke is, but Ross is a very underrated fireballer himself.  He gets practically no run support, which perfectly summarizes this stat: in six career starts against the Dodgers, he's 0-4 with a 2.45 ERA.  That's just crazy.

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