The gray Dodgers jersey clung to his frame, his shoulders soaked after a Gatorade bath by Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig. “I’m freezing right now,” Dave Roberts said, his body temperature the lone cause for concern after a 15-0 opening-day pounding of the San Diego Padres in his managerial debut.
For one afternoon, as the sun faded over Petco Park and an unsettling spring temporarily became a memory, all was well for the Dodgers. Their hitters occupied the bases with stunning regularity. Clayton Kershaw quieted the bats of the Padres with mirthless efficiency. The distance between the two clubs measured in double digits.
Roberts planned to spend about 10 seconds admiring the scene before the game, preserving memories for the start of his career as a big league manager. His players afforded him the chance to admire their rout for the game’s final four innings. The Dodgers won by the largest shutout margin on opening day in history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“It’s got to be special for him to get his first one out of the way,” Kershaw said. “And now it’s just baseball. Get all the hoopla out of the way of this one, and now he can do what he wants to do and we can do what we want to do.”
By all accounts, they want to replicate Monday. Starting his sixth opener, Kershaw struck out nine and let only two runners on base in seven innings. He finished with as many hits as the plate (one) as he allowed the entire Padres lineup. He retired the final 13 men he faced.
Dodgers infielder Chase Utley is tagged out by Padres catcher Derek Norris while trying to score on a Justin Turner hit in the third inning.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
The San Diego Padres listen to the national anthem before a opening day game against the Dodgers at Petco Park.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
San Diego Padres manager Andy Green takes the field before an opening day game against the Dodgers at Petco Park.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers left-handed starter Clayton Kershaw pitches against the Padres on opening day at Petco Park.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig scores on an error after hitting a triple in the eighth inning against the Padres.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez scores on a Trayce Thompson double in the seventh inning against the Padres.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers outfiedler Yasiel Puig hits a triple, and then scored on an error in the eighth inning against the Padres.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers second baseman Chase Utley fields an infield ground ball to throw out Padres Jon Jay in the 6th inning.(Nelvin C. Cepeda / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez hugs Manager Dave Roberts before an opening day game agaisnt the Padres at Petco Park.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson scores on an A.J. Ellis hit in the sixth inning against the Padres.(K.C. Alfred / San Diego Union-Tribune)
“That was vintage, opening day Clayton,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “Focused, ready to go. He comes to spring training ready for opening day, it seems like.”
The offense afforded Kershaw room to breathe. Roberts installed Utley as his leadoff hitter, a nod to Utley’s history of success against right-handed pitchers like Padres starter Tyson Ross, and a concession necessary after original leadoff man Andre Ethier broke his leg. Utley rewarded Roberts by catalyzing the offense.
He doubled in the season’s first at-bat and scored on a subsequent double by rookie Corey Seager. Soon after, Gonzalez delivered his first run-scoring single. The quartet of Utley, Seager, Turner and Gonzalez went 9-for-19 on the day.
But it was the bottom half of the lineup that cracked the game open in the sixth. After Ross hit Puig with a pitch, Carl Crawford legged out an infield single. Joc Pederson smashed an RBI double. Ellis chopped a two-run single past the drawn-in infield. Kershaw singled and scored on Seager’s sacrifice fly to cap the five-run inning.
His previous 48 hours had unfolded in cinematic fashion. He had grown up in the suburbs of San Diego, rooting for the Padres, a team for which he would one day both play and coach. He spent Sunday afternoon with his parents. He left 13 tickets at the gate. His guests witnessed an immaculate debut.
After Yimi Garcia recorded the final out, he handed the baseball to Roberts. The team intended to furnish him with a copy of the lineup card. And he would keep his jersey, once it dried out.
“It was a good day,” Roberts said. “There were a lot of good things that happened.”