Look who’s coming up
Hope springs eternal throughout Major League Baseball in early April, but for the Dodgers and Angels, the end of spring training carries not hopes but hefty expectations.
Both clubs are approaching Monday’s opening day not only as the defending champions in their respective divisions, but also as odds-on favorites in many corners to reach the playoffs again.
First, though, they celebrated their rite of spring Thursday night with the one-game version of their former “Freeway Series” with the Dodgers beating the Angels, 6-2, on a nippy, overcast night in front of 31,023 at Dodger Stadium.
Third baseman Casey Blake hit a two-run home run for the Dodgers off Angels starter Dustin Moseley, and the Dodgers’ most heralded player, Manny Ramirez, knocked in another run with a single to center field in the fifth inning.
Ramirez also walked twice and scored from first on a triple by Andre Ethier (who also homered in the eighth), and each of Ramirez’s at-bats were greeted with a rousing ovation.
“I’m happy to be back, and I’m anxious to see my fans too,” Ramirez said.
It was the first time the Dodgers played at Chavez Ravine since Oct. 15, when they lost the fifth and deciding game of the National League Championship Series to the Philadelphia Phillies, who went on to win the World Series over the Tampa Bay Rays.
And after several weeks of Cactus League spring-training games in Arizona for both clubs, “it’s good to get into a night game and into a major league ballpark,” said Angels Manager Mike Scioscia.
Both teams started the players expected to fill their everyday lineups -- including Dodgers catcher Russell Martin, who is recovering from flu -- and most went about seven innings.
Dodgers starter Randy Wolf gave up only one unearned run and four hits in three innings of work, and the left-hander had three strikeouts.
Moseley, in turn, surrendered three earned runs and four hits in four innings.
For Scioscia’s Angels, the goal this season is to rectify their quick exit from the playoffs last season, when they were eliminated in the first round by the Boston Red Sox after posting baseball’s best record of 100-62.
The Angels return with strong pitching, a power-hitting outfield of Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Vladimir Guerrero and, in the words of Dodgers Manager Joe Torre, “their manager [Scioscia] is outstanding.”
“They’re a real good team,” Torre said.
“They’re a good model for teams to pattern themselves after because they play the game so well, they’re fundamentally sound.
“They play a very aggressive style that can be a little intimidating for the other team,” he added.
Even so, Scioscia said the Angels -- who open against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium -- remain “a work in progress.”
“There’s always ways to tighten things up,” he said.
“Everything’s where it should be” to start the season, but “I don’t think you ever have it where you say, ‘Hey, you’re ready.’ ”
The Dodgers, meanwhile, are viewed as having solid defense and good hitting, but a pitching staff that’s suspect.
Batting third in the lineup is Ramirez, who hit .396 in 53 games after joining the Dodgers last summer, helping to propel them into postseason play.
Ramirez arrived late to spring training because of his contract negotiations and he’s still getting himself in shape for opening day. He planned to play left field again tonight. “I’ll be ready” for the Dodgers’ opener against the Padres in San Diego, he said.
In the meantime, Dodgers first baseman James Loney said he relished playing again in Dodger Stadium.
“It feels good to be back,” he said. “We love playing here, it’s a great atmosphere.
“Getting back here and getting ready to go is something we’ve all been looking forward to.”