Yes! Opening Day has arrived and baseball games count once again. What better way to open the new season that at Dodger Stadium against the defending Champions who also happen to be your biggest rival? How about with a win! Clayton Kershaw showed why new skipper Don Mattingly has such confidence in him. Kershaw was downright nasty! Seven innings, no runs, nine strikeouts, while allowing only four hits and one walk.
Considering that this was Opening day, and all of the hoopla and pressure that goes with it, and considering that the guy toeing the rubber for the other team is a Cy Young winner, Kershaw proved that he has the mental toughness and poise to match the talent in his left arm. The teams remained scoreless until the Dodgers where able to give Kershaw the lead, scoring in the bottom of the sixth inning on a throwing error by Buster Posey. Posey thought he could catch Kemp sleeping at third and threw the ball away, allowing Kemp to score the Dodgers first run of the year. The Giants looked a little tight, and a little sloppy, committing three errors, which ended up costing them a chance to win the game.
The Dodger offense was able to get some hits against the tough righty Tim Lincecum, and some baserunners from walks. But the team was never really able to come up with the big hit and blow the game open. After pitching seven dominant innings, Mattingly brought in Hong-Chih Kuo for the eighth inning. Kuo did give up a walk but made it through the inning without any serious issues, keeping the lead intact.
James Loney was able to add what turned out to be a huge insurance run, ripping a double to right in the bottom of the eighth inning, once again scoring Matt Kemp. Kemp was 1 for 1 with three walks and two runs scored for the day, not a bad start to his season. Loney came up big when it counted, making up for leaving 5 runners on base.
Up 2-0, manager Don Mattingly brought in Jonathan Broxton to close the deal. After retiring the first batter he faced, Broxton gave up a home run by Pat Burrell to left-center field to cut the lead to 2-1. You could hear a smattering of boos as Burrell rounded the bases. I hope that the boos were directed at Burrell but I suspect that more than a few of them were directed at Broxton. I feared that the big righty’s confidence would be shaken and feared he may unravel before our eyes.
But that fear never materialized. Broxton retired the next two batters he faced, sealing the win and giving Mattingly his first win as a Major League manager. It was great to see Kershaw sharp and dominant in a big game. It was awesome to see the defending Champs start the season with a loss. This style of win, I have a feeling, will become the pattern for this year’s Dodger team. Small ball. Minimize errors, don’t give up a lot of walks, dominant starting pitching, and just enough offense to get the job done. Reminds me of traditional Dodgers baseball.
Tonight the two teams will be back in action. Chad Billingsley, fresh off signing his new three-year extenstion, will get the starting nod for the boys in blue. Lefty Jonathan Sanchez will get the start for the Giants. It will be interesting to see how Mattingly juggles the lineup with a lefty on the mound. My guess is that Marcus Thames will get the start in left. Here’s hoping that Ivan DeJesus will get his first big league start at second. It will be interesting if Thames bats second or if DeJesus or someone else will bat there. We shall see. It’s all good no matter what Mattingly decides to do as long as the results are the same. Just win baby!