The power and the worry
The Dodgers had the kind of offensive performance in their home opener that had Matt Kemp wondering aloud if home run hitting was contagious.
They also had the kind of pitching performance that had Manager Joe Torre making multiple mentions of how concerned he was about their low-budget bullpen -- sometimes without being prompted to do so.
When asked about how Kemp, Manny Ramirez, Casey Blake and Andre Ethier each hit a home run in the Dodgers’ 9-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, Torre acknowledged the potency of his team’s bats, then quickly turned the focus to his concerns about the bullpen.
“Lot of good signs today offensively,” Torre said. “But we need to be able to bridge that gap between our starters and our closer a little bit better than we’ve been doing.”
Torre said that when he sent Ramon Ortiz into the game to start the seventh inning, he envisioned him finishing the game.
“All of a sudden, those plans changed,” Torre said.
Ortiz recorded two quick outs, but unraveled thereafter, walking Adam LaRoche and serving up a two-run home run to Mark Reynolds. A double by Chris Young and run-scoring single by Kelly Johnson followed, closing the gap from 9-2 to 9-5 and forcing Torre to abort his plans.
“The thing that killed us more than anything was two out, nobody on and you’re walking someone with a seven-run lead,” Torre said. “Anything’s liable to happen after stuff like that.”
Torre called on Ramon Troncoso, who got the Dodgers out of the seventh inning and pitched a scoreless eighth.
The victory was sealed by a 1-2-3, two-strikeout ninth inning by All-Star closer Jonathan Broxton.
The Dodgers’ bullpen, which led the majors with a 3.14 earned-run average last season, has posted a 5.96 ERA through the first seven games.
But Clayton Kershaw, who made his first start in a home opener, said it was the rotation that wasn’t doing its job. The 22-year-old said the brevity of most of the Dodgers’ starts resulted in too much being asked from the bullpen, particularly Jeff Weaver.
Weaver has pitched only 32/3 of the 222/3 total innings credited to the Dodgers’ relievers, but has appeared in six of the team’s seven games.
“I almost feel bad making him work this hard,” Kershaw said. “I know it’s our job to go deeper in the game. He’s having to work harder because of us. He’s done an amazing job.”
Weaver replaced Kershaw with two on and one out in the sixth inning and limited the damage to one run.
Kershaw (1-0) held the Diamondbacks to two runs and three hits, but clearly was displeased with his performance.
While striking out seven, he walked five and ran his pitch count to 110, resulting in another short start. His first start lasted only 42/3 innings.
“I didn’t pitch very well, obviously,” he said. “I’m happy to get the team a win, but I’d rather they win because of me, not in spite of me.”
The day started well for Kershaw, as he gave up only two baserunners in the first three innings.
He gave up a run that tied the score, 1-1, in the fourth inning on a single by Chris Young.
The first home runs of the season by Ramirez and Blake in the bottom half of the inning extended the Dodgers’ lead to 4-1, but then Kershaw lost his control.
He started the fifth inning by walking No. 8 hitter Chris Snyder and pitcher Ian Kennedy. He forced Conor Jackson to hit into a fielder’s choice that put men on the corners but loaded the bases by hitting Stephen Drew.
Third baseman Blake prevented a run from scoring when he fielded a grounder by Justin Upton and threw home. Kershaw escaped the inning unscathed by getting LaRoche to fly out to center.
Torre applauded Kershaw for exhibiting the grit required to pitch his way out of trouble, but Kershaw said he shouldn’t have found himself in that situation in the first place.
“The main thing that’s frustrating for me is that I don’t want to have to battle,” he said. “I know that I can get people out. It’s just when I’m giving people free bases, free passes, I’m pretty much beating myself. I’m not making them beat me. It’s something I’ve got to work on.”
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The Dodgers came into their home opener with three home runs in six games. They hit four Tuesday:
* Manny Ramirez leads off the fourth inning with a home run to left-center off Ian Kennedy to give Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
* After a James Loney double in the fourth, Casey Blake hits a two-run homer to center to give Dodgers a 4-1 lead.
* With one out in the fifth, Matt Kemp homers off Kennedy to give Dodgers a 5-1 lead.
* With one out in sixth, Andre Ethier hits a three-run home run off Esmerling Vasquez to give the Dodgers a 9-2 lead.