They can’t get arms to fare well
For the Dodgers, the vast promise of a new season was quickly replaced by the sobering truth that they had Vicente Padilla starting for them on opening day.
The Pittsburgh Pirates? The downtrodden version of this once-proud franchise was granted a day of relief from the reality that it has been picked for another last-place finish, as its fans stood and clapped in rhythmic unison as James Loney grounded out to finalize the Dodgers’ 11-5 loss at PNC Park.
The Pirates of Garrett Jones and Ryan Doumit did something Monday that the Pirates of Roberto Clemente and Willie Stargell never did, scoring a record 11 runs in an opening-day game played in Pittsburgh.
Taking the brunt of the punishment issued by the lowest-paid team in baseball was Padilla, the reformed bad boy who drew the surprise assignment from Manager Joe Torre to start on opening day.
Throwing only 55 of his 93 pitches for strikes, Padilla (0-1) lasted 41/3 innings. He was charged with seven runs and six hits, walked three and hit two batters.
Padilla served up two home runs, both to Jones, one of them a 456-foot solo blast in the third inning that broke a 2-2 stalemate and bounced into the Allegheny River.
Padilla unraveled in the fifth inning, hitting Andrew McCutchen, walking Doumit and serving up a run-scoring double to Lastings Milledge. Padilla intentionally walked Jeff Clement to load the bases with one out and handed the ball to Torre, who, in turn, handed it to Ramon Ortiz.
Ortiz gave up a bases-clearing double to pinch-hitter Ryan Church and a run-scoring single to Ronny Cedeno.
Suddenly the Dodgers were down, 8-2.
Padilla was quick to point out that this was only one game and that titles weren’t won or lost on opening day.
“There were two teams on the field and one of us had to lose,” Padilla said. “It so happened to be us. It so happened to be me. I can’t control that.”
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said that Padilla’s sinker didn’t move the way it usually does.
“A lot of his fastballs ended up flat, having side movement instead of sink movement.”
The 36-year-old Ortiz, a lifelong starter with limited experience as a reliever, downplayed the effect of having entered a game under unfamiliar circumstances.
“I know everything will be fine,” he said.
Torre used five relievers in all, something that might have been disconcerting had the Dodgers not had a scheduled off day Tuesday. The three-game series resumes Wednesday.
“They couldn’t get them out today,” Torre said. “Hopefully, we do a better job on Wednesday.”
Also troubling was the performance of setup man George Sherrill, who entered the game in the eighth inning, a half-inning after a two-run single by Manny Ramirez had sparked a three-run rally that closed the gap to 8-5.
After recording two quick outs, Sherrill gave up a double to McCutchen, a walk to Jones and a three-run home run to Doumit.
The deficit grew to 11-5.
“I’m just a hair off,” said Sherrill, who attributed his 7.50 spring earned-run average to mechanical problems.
Because Sherrill had warned the Dodgers of his lousy track record in spring training, Torre said throughout camp that he wasn’t concerned about the former All-Star’s form. The manager maintained the same tone Monday, even as Sherrill’s problems spilled into the regular season.
“He’s our guy,” Torre said. “He’s going to go out there until he does what we know he can do.”