On April 10 of 2012, the sacred fiftieth anniversary season of our beloved Dodger Stadium coupled with the newly approved ownership group of Magic Johnson and the GBM gave Dodger fans plenty of reason to celebrate. However it was a microscopic organism, an unseen enemy, a flu bug that nearly ruined Dodger Stadium opening day for the Dodgers and their fans.
After getting off to their best start to a regular season since their world championship campaign of 1981, the Dodgers were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates in an afternoon match. Dodger’s ace Clayton Kershaw was to take the mound, supposedly fully recovered from the flu bug that limited his opening day start in San Diego to three innings. Unfortunately that same little annoying flu bug had gotten to Vin Scully. For the first time in over 30 years, and only the second time ever the greatest broadcaster in the history of sports, would not be broadcasting on opening day for the Dodgers. Naturally the usual celebration of opening day would be tempered with worry.
You see we had no idea how serious Vin Scully’s illness was. The legendary broadcaster was beginning his unprecedented 63rd season blessing us all with his beautiful voice. Scully’s absence was felt throughout the day. It was a black eye on opening day which created a tension around the Ravine that encompassed everyone from the box seats, to the top deck, to the pavilions.
We could only do one thing, Win for Vin, and hope for the best. The pregame rituals involved seeing most of the 1962 Dodger team in attendance. Former Dodgers owner Peter O’Malley, and his sister Terry Seidler threw out the ceremonial first pitches, as one great brother and sister team watched another.
The game would see a pitching duel between Kershaw, and Pirate’s right hander Kevin Correia. Kershaw would allow just one run over seven frames, while allowing just four hits, walking none, and whiffing seven. The buc’s righty Correia would nearly match Kershaw zero for zero by allowing just one run of his own across six innings, while allowing four hits, two walks, and three whiffs. Neither pitcher would be involved in the decision. It would end up being the continued clutchness of Andre Ethier that won the game for the Dodgers. His beautiful solo home run in the bottom of the eighth inning would put the Dodgers ahead for good. The majestic blast into the right field pavilion seats would break a 1-1 tie, as Ethier also celebrated his thirtieth birthday.
The Dodgers would make strike first in the bottom of the first. A single and stolen base from Dodger speedster Dee Gordon would put a man in scoring position. After a Mark Ellis ground-out moved Gordon over to third, he would score the Dodger’s first run on a RBI grounder from Matt Kemp. The Dodgers would lead 1-0.
Juan Uribe our resident portly benchwarmer, would have perhaps his greatest game as a Dodger. He went three for three with the bat, and made a nice backhanded stop of a sharp grounder from Andrew McCutchen to end the top of the first, ending a Buc’s scoring threat.
The Pirates would threaten again in the top half of the second, but Kershaw and the Dodgers would get out of it. Casey McGehee would lead off the inning with a triple over the head of Matt Kemp in center field. Kershaw would recover to whiff both rookie Matt Hague, and second baseman Neil Walker. Former Dodger catcher Rod Barajas, also known to us as Big Rod, who now wears a Black and Yellow uniform would ground out to end the frame.
The middle innings of the game would breeze by, with the Dodgers still leading by a score of 1-0. The Dodgers put two men on in the bottom of the second. That would be when James Loney walked, and Uribe singled. But A.J. Ellis would fly out, and Kersahw grounded out to end the inning.
The Dodgers would also threaten in the bottom of the fifth, but would come up empty again. Uribe singled, and was sacrificed to second. Gordon walked to put two runners on. Mark Ellis’s grounder would end the scoring rally for the Blue.
The Pirates would finally tie it up in Kershaw’s last inning in the top of the seventh. Consecutive singles from Alex Presley and McCutchen would put runners at first and second. A fly ball to left from Casey McGehee would move Presley over to third. Juan Rivera’s throw was a tad late, which allowed McCutchen to tag up to second. Hague’s grounder to Gordon would plate Presley, and the Bucs tie the game at 1-1.
The Dodgers would put runners on base in the bottom of the seventh, but fail to score again. Pirate’s reliever Juan Cruz serves up singles to Uribe, and pinch-hitter Adam Kennedy. However Gordon would whiff like a statue, and the game remained tied.
Kenley Jansen would come in and blow away the Bucs in the top half of the eighth inning. He whiffs Big Rod and Clint Barmes, and gets Garrett Jones to ground out to end the frame. With the game still tied at 1-1 going into the bottom of the eighth, we were prepared to see extra innings. Especially the way the Dodgers kept stranding runners. But the Dodgers would finally break through in the bottom half of the eighth.
Buc’s right hander Jason Grilli was the unfortunate recipient of Andre Ethier’s clutch home run The inning started off innocently enough for the Dodgers. Mark Ellis, and Kemp would begin the frame by both whiffing. The birthday boy, Andre Ethier would blast a solo shot deep into the right field pavilion, to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
That would be all the Dodgers would need. Javy Guerra, also known as the Javinator, or El Javy, would close out the game for the Dodgers. Jose Tabata whiffs on a called third strike for the first out of the frame. Presley singles. McCutchen would then ground into a game ending 6-4-3 double play. The Dodgers win 2-1! Kenley Jansen would pick up his first win of the season in relief. Pirate’s reliever Jason Grilli would be charged with the loss. Javy Guerra would record his third save of the season. This was Ethier’s sixth career walk-off home run for the Dodgers.
There was a buzz in the air that day, as the beginning of another exciting Dodger Baseball season was underway. Our worries would be put at ease, as Vin Scully would return to the Dodger broadcast booth on the last day of the home-stand. Kershaw’s magnificent pitching performance, and Andre Ethier’s beautiful home run would make the Opening Dre game perhaps one of the greatest of the 2012 Dodger season.