New Dodgers provide new experience in opener: A come-from-behind win
<p>Fans show up at Chavez Ravine to cheer on the Dodgers during their home opener against the San Diego Padres.</p>
In the middle of fielding questions about the Dodgers’ season-opening victory over the San Diego Padres, Adrian Gonzalez made an inquiry of his own.
“Last year, how many times did we come from behind?” he asked.
The answer: Not many.
Only twice last season did the Dodgers do what they did Monday in their 6-3 victory at Dodger Stadium: Win a game in which they trailed through six innings. In such situations, they were 2-54 last year.
Monday’s comeback, which was completed with a three-run home run in the eighth inning by newcomer Jimmy Rollins, was described by Gonzalez as a byproduct of the more balanced lineup assembled by the team’s new sabermetrically-inclined president of baseball operations, Andrew Friedman.
“Everybody had good at-bats,” Gonzalez said.
Those quality at-bats also included a key one by another new Dodger, Howie Kendrick, who doubled in the tying run in the seventh.
For former Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, the late-game reversal was about the only dispiriting aspect of his return to the stadium he used to call home. Traded to the Padres in the off-season, the two-time All-Star drove in three runs against Clayton Kershaw, the reigning most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner in the National League.
“Sigh of relief for me,” said Kershaw, who was in line for a defeat when Justin Turner pinch-hit for him in the bottom of the sixth inning.
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Of the five consecutive opening-day starts made by Kershaw, this was by far his least effective, as he was charged with three runs and six hits over six innings. He threw 99 pitches.
In his four previous season openers, Kershaw was 3-0 and gave up only one run in 25 2/3 innings.
Kershaw especially had trouble with Kemp, who was two for three with a double against him.
“Clayton and I had never called pitches with Matt at the plate before,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “I had no idea where he stood in the batter’s box. I had no idea what pitches were going to work. I’ve played with Matt since rookie ball in 2003, but I don’t think I’d ever sat behind home plate when he was hitting. That was bizarre and pretty surreal.”
The first time Kershaw pitched to Kemp, the Dodgers infield was shifted to the left. Kemp singled in a run.
The Dodgers moved in front, 2-1, in the fourth inning, when Gonzalez hit a solo home run, Kendrick tripled and Carl Crawford doubled him home.
The Padres reclaimed the advantage in the fifth inning, which Clint Barmes led off with a double. Kershaw struck out James Shields and Wil Myers in succession, then induced catcher Derek Norris to hit a ground ball to third baseman Juan Uribe. But with Barmes running in front of him from second base to third, Uribe didn’t charge the ball, which prevented him from throwing out the surprisingly swift-footed Norris.
With two outs and men on the corners, Kemp delivered again, this time doubling in two runs to move the Padres back in front, 3-2.
“He got the best of me today,” Kershaw acknowledged.
Kershaw lasted only six innings, but so did Shields, whom the Padres signed to a four-year, $75-million contract in the off-season. The Dodgers tied the score, 3-3, in the seventh inning when Gonzalez and Kendrick doubled against reliever Nick Vincent in consecutive at-bats.
“They gave me the lead, 2-1, and I wasn’t able to hold it,” Kershaw said. “A little bit disappointed with that, but you know what? We got some clutch hits.”
The Dodgers did what they could to make their ace comfortable, which included starting Ellis at catcher over Yasmani Grandal.
Acquired in the trade that sent Kemp to the Padres, Grandal is expected to be the team’s primary catcher.
“We’re always going to take into consideration what Clayton prefers,” Manager Don Mattingly said.
“I think it’s easier to blame somebody that you already know,” Ellis said. “If something goes wrong, [Kershaw] knows he can blame me and get away with it. In all seriousness, it’s really special that he enjoys throwing to me. If I can add my 2% to making him great, it’s all he really needs.”
While Mattingly accommodated Kershaw on Monday, he said he doesn’t intend to designate Ellis as Kershaw’s personal catcher.
“We would really like our catching situation to be where the pitchers trust both guys,” Mattingly said.
Ellis didn’t mind.
“Whenever it’s Yas’ turn, I’ll be there to support him,” Ellis said.
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