Opening Night of the 2013 Major League Baseball season opened with a Texan rodeo of sorts. Yet this time the calf had the bull by its horns as the newly American Leagued Houston Astros overtook the Texas Rangers at Minute Maid Park. It was a dreary Easter evening here in Los Angeles on the eve of Opening Day L.A. It was still nice to watch some honest-to-goodness baseball while I was partaking in some honey ham and chocolate bunnies.
I hope the Dodgers weren’t eating too many Cadbury Cream Eggs on Sunday night since they will have to battle their most-hated foes this Opening Day.
This will be Matt Cain’s first Opening Day start. The Giants have previously started Tim Lincecum on Opening Day in the previous four seasons. Last season Cain was very successful and went 16-5 with a 2.79 ERA and 193 strikeouts in 32 games started. He pitched a perfect game, and he helped the Giants clinch their second World Championship in just the past three years. Cain has a career record of 4-8 with a 3.41 ERA against the Dodgers. At Dodger Stadium, Cain has a career 3.05 ERA with a 2-2 record in 11 starts. Adrian Gonzalez has historically hit Cain very well, and he has a batting average of .400 against the right-hander with 4 homeruns and 12 RBI. Andre Ethier has also hit him well, and he has a .435 average versus Cain with a homerun and 4 RBI. Justin Sellers, who presumably will be starting at shortstop, has never faced Cain.
Clayton Kershaw will be making his third consecutive Opening Day start for the Dodgers. Last season Kershaw was battling a bout of the flu. Even though he didn’t have the strength to pitch past the third inning, the lefty persevered to push himself as far as he could which led to the Dodgers’ eventual victory. Kershaw has always dominated the Giants. In his career, he is 8-4 with a 1.37 ERA against the pumpkin colored foes. He has struck out 127 Giants in just 118 innings pitched. He’ll have to watch out for the usual pesky players including Pablo Sandoval who is hitting .276 against him as well as Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro. Kershaw will be looking to commence another Cy Young worthy season with the Dodgers when he takes the mound Monday afternoon. Last season Kersh went 14-9 with a 2.53 ERA and 229 strikeouts over 227 2/3 innings pitched. He finished second to R.A. Dickey for the N.L. Cy Young Award. Kershaw also very competent at the plate, and he hit .207 last season.
All eyes will be on the Dodgers as they try to live up to the high expectations that such a huge payroll brings with it. The Dodgers watched the Giants go on a unprecedented tear last season as they won six postseason elimination games. The Giants swept the Detroit Tigers in the World Series, and Dodger fans were frustrated as they witness another San Francisco celebratory parade. Even though the Giants dealt with an injury to Pablo Sandoval and a 50- game suspension to Melky Cabrera, the Giants used their pitching prowess and aggressive style to win when it counted.
Bruce Bochy explained how the Giants fought back to take it all last season:
“It’s something that happens over time. It’s like a player whose success usually feeds off his own success. Teams, I believe, are the same. They figure out a way to win, and it’s contagious. You know how to win and how to deal with other things. When you’re going through a tough time, a stretch all teams are going to have, you don’t overreact.”
Don Mattingly, who goes into his third season as skipper of the Dodgers, will be trying to prove to the new ownership that he can manage this team to the postseason. This is Mattingly’s final contract year, and the owners will not be settling for another second place finish.
Brandon Belt‘s infamous comments about the Dodgers’ chemistry this offseason caused quite a stir. Many naysayers still question whether the Dodgers can cohesively produce enough this season to overtake the Giants in the N.L. West. $200 million doesn’t guarantee a World Series ring, and the Giants can attest to that after winning with players like Scutaro and Pagan.
The Dodgers will need to remain healthy, and the offense cannot be stagnant. Every game counts, and the Dodgers will need to have a big April in order to secure a top spot in the West.
Scott and I will be at beautiful Dodger Stadium tomorrow, and we will be bringing you extended Opening Day coverage. Stay tuned for a complete recap of the day’s events and the game. If you are attending Opening Day and would like to come say “hi” we will be sitting in the Lower Reserved Level, Section 56 Row C.
If you are watching from home, Vin Scully will greet you at 1:10 p.m. on Prime Ticket.