Last night the Los Angeles Dodgers downed the S.F. Giants by a score of 7-5. The Dodgers won three games out of four, lifting the Dodgers to first place at the end of opening weekend. Four games does not a season make, but lets take a look back at what we have learned so far, shall we?
First, Clayton Kershaw is a stud. He has a chance to be the dominating ace that the Dodgers have been lacking for years. He took the ball on Opening Day, with the bright lights glaring, and was filthy good. He was not intimidated by the moment. He was not phased at having to go against a two-time Cy Young Award winner. He did not care that he was facing the defending Champions. He pitched seven strong innings, striking out nine, while giving up only four hits and one walk. This is a guy who can take the ball every fifth day, can face the opposing team’s ace, and get a “W”.
Second, Matt Kemp was not kidding when he said that he was more focused and wanted to have a monster season. In four games against one of the best pitching staffs in the National League, Kemp went 5 for 12, .417 average, with a home run, two doubles, three RBI, three walks, and a stolen base. Oh yeah, he also scored four runs and had 10 total bases. If he continues to produce at this rate, the Dodgers have a bona fide MVP candidate and someone who puts the fear of God in the opposing pitchers.
Third, this team is going to struggle to score runs. There will be times when the pitching staff is going to have to find a way to win with only a few runs on the scoreboard. Andre Ethier is hitting .333 but has only 1 RBI and no runs scored. James Loney, who has been batting fifth, after Kemp, is hitting .133 with one RBI thus far. These guys sandwich Kemp, which means they are going to see some good pitches. They have to make them count. Ethier is off to a good start and could team up with Kemp to cause some problems but they need help from the rest of the lineup.
Furcal is getting on, hitting .333 thus far, but has not been a threat on the basepaths, as he was thrown out attempting to steal in his only attempt. I would like to see more aggressiveness from one of the best basestealers on the team. Juan Uribe has played in just two games, he missed two after being hit in the opener on his elbow, and has two hits and two strikeouts. Lets hope he is going to increase his production.
Fourth, Jonathan Broxton’s troubles are not yet behind him. He came in and was able to save all three Dodger wins. That is good news to be sure. But he also gave up two long home runs, which could have been costly if the score had been closer. Thankfully the team had a bit of a cushion and the round trippers did no harm. His ERA is currently a eye-catching 6.00. Perhaps even more alarming is the fact that Broxton has only 1 strikeout in three innings pitched.
The Dodgers and skipper Don Mattingly are downplaying his performance, saying that the result is all that matters. While there is some truth to that, if the performance does not improve, the results are going to slip. How long will Mattingly be willing to hang with Broxton if that happens? Lets hope we don’t have to find out.
Fifth, the rest of the pitching staff has been solid, if not spectacular. With the exception of the 10 runs given up on Saturday, the Dodgers staff has been good. Chad Billingsley pitched six innings, gave up three runs, and got the win. Not a bad outing for the first start of the season but certainly room for improvement.
Ted Lilly got off to a rough start but then again he didn’t get as much work in during Spring Training due to some injuries. Lets chalk this up to a bad outing as a result of working out the kinks. Lilly has earned the benefit of the doubt with his long resume. Finally, Hiroki Kuroda was pretty effective until the seventh inning last night. Perhaps he was left in a tad too long but he still only gave up three earned runs, good enough to land the victory.
Finally, the Dodgers were able to take advantage of many Giant errors to grab runs. Some see this as the Dodgers getting lucky and the Giants beating themselves. But good teams take advantage of the mistakes made by their opponents, making them pay. Just like points off turnovers in football, when a good baseball team is given extra outs, they must score runs. And the Dodgers did. No apologies need to be made for capitalizing on the numerous mistakes that the Giants made.
Mattingly has this team focused and excited. They look eager to play and seem to be having fun doing so. They finally get an off day to recover and travel to Denver where they will play division rival Colorado. Kershaw will face notorious Dodger-killer Jhoulys Chacin in game one. It will be interesting to see if Kershaw, Kemp, and company can keep the hot start going and put some distance between themselves and the rest of the division.