OK, that did not go as expected. Aces Clayton Kershaw and Gerrit Cole were less than sharp. Kershaw's 37-inning scoreless streak ended on his first pitch of the game.
There were all kinds of strange goings-on. A catcher bunted for a single. A pitcher, Kershaw, was hit by a pitch. Jimmy Rollins scored from second on an infield single. A catcher's interference call led to a tying run. The Pittsburgh Pirates loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth inning and did not score.
But given another chance with the bases loaded and no outs in the 10th, the Pirates cashed in. Pedro Alvarez lined a single over the Dodgers' five-man infield for a 5-4 victory Friday before a sellout crowd at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.
It was a long, circuitous first meeting of the season between two 62-win teams. The headliners in the game were supposed to be Kershaw and Cole, but both struggled with their command. They weren't terrible, just not in top form.
The game got off to a stunning start when outfielder Gregory Polanco jumped on Kershaw's first pitch and drove it over the center-field wall. Kershaw had gone 37 consecutive innings without allowing a run and then the first pitch he offered put the Dodgers behind.
But it was a back-and-forth game, the teams taking turns coming at each other. If this really was a playoff preview, it suggested the potential for an interesting postseason series.
The Dodgers took the lead in the third. Struggling Joc Pederson doubled with one out and took third when Kershaw grounded out. Rollins walked and then stole second. When third baseman Aramis Ramirez had to dive to his left to field Howie Kendrick's ground ball, Rollins alertly kept running as Ramirez got to his feet and threw to first. Rollins then scored while first baseman Michael Morse, the almost-Dodger, was disputing the umpire's ruling that his foot wasn't on the bag when he caught the throw. Just your basic two-run infield single.
The Pirates tied it in the fourth after they loaded the bases on three singles with no outs. Kershaw got Morse to line out to Adrian Gonzalez at first for the first out and struck out Sean Rodriguez, but walked catcher Chris Stewart to force in the run. Stewart, who bunted for a single in his first at-bat, was seven for 13 in his career against Kershaw before he drew the walk.
The Dodgers took the lead again in the fifth after Pederson walked and Cole hit Kershaw with a pitch. Rollins continued his strong night with a run-scoring single.
Kershaw struggled in the bottom of the inning, the Pirates scoring twice to take back the lead. Kershaw hit Starling Marte with a pitch and Andrew McCutchen doubled Marte in, then Ramirez singled home McCutchen and Pittsburgh was up, 4-3.
Both starting pitchers left after the sixth inning and were not involved in the final decision. Kershaw allowed four runs and nine hits, walked two, hit a batter and threw a wild pitch. Cole gave up three runs and four hits, walked three and hit a batter. Each man struck out five.
The Dodgers tied it again in the seventh against reliever Joakim Soria. With two outs, pinch-hitter Carl Crawford was awarded first when Stewart was called for catcher's interference. Crawford stole second and scored on a Rollins double off the wall in right field.
The Pirates loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth and failed to score. After Juan Nicasio gave up a leadoff single to Jung Ho Kang, Manager Don Mattingly went to his new left-handed reliever, Luis Avilan, who loaded the bases, giving up a hit to Francisco Cervelli and a walk to Rodriguez. With no outs and the infield in, Avilan got two grounders for force plays at the plate and then got Polanco to bounce out to first.