Game 4: Zack Greinke’s Sterling Debut. Dodgers 3, Pirates 0.

Big Dodger off-season signee Zack Greinke made his Dodgers regular season debut at Dodger Stadium tonight, and he came out dealing.  Greinke set down the first five batters he faced before giving up a fluke single to Garret Jones that came up on Mark Ellis and sort of handcuffed him.  Great to see Russell back at the ballpark, but I hope he goes 0-for-12 against us this weekend.

Going for the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight was left-hander Jonathan Sanchez, the former San Francisco Giant, owner of a 2009 No-Hitter, and one of the pieces that went to the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Melkey Cabrera.

With two outs in the Bottom of the First, Matt Kemp worked a 3-0 count against starting pitcher Jonathan Sanchez.  Don Mattingly then green-lighted him to swing 3-0.  While I understand that they pay Donnie good money to make decisions about what to do in any given situation, it just seems odd to me that he would have Kemp swinging 1-0 while he’s in a bit of a slump and appears to be pressing a little.  Kemp got a good pitch to hit, but didn’t get a good swing on the ball and wound up hitting a high pop-up to right for the third out of the inning.  I don’t believe that Kemp’s struggles will be season-long, but there is no point in taking a pressing swinger and tell him to press on a 3-0 pitch rather than letting him work the count and perhaps finding a pitch he’s more comfortable with.

In the Bottom of the 2nd, Andre Ethier became the first Dodger who isn’t a pitcher to hit a home run this season, sending a 2-out solo rocket into the Right Field Pavillion to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.  A positive early-season sign for Ethier: he has been getting hits against left-handed pitchers, historically a weakness in his game.

Zack Greinke picked up his first Dodgers hit in the Bottom of the third, hitting a bouncer through the infield that nobody could quite field that wound up in the glove of Shortstop Clint Barmes who was unable to make a play.  Greinke was subsequently erased by Carl Crawford, who confused everybody in the ballpark by attempting to steal second on a 2-2 pitch, then stopping his sprint 3/4 of the way to the bag and getting tagged out easily.  It appears Crawford may have mistaken the pitch for either Ball 4 or Strike 3.

More great defense tonight.  Pedro Alvarez made a couple of great plays in the bottom of the 4th, including robbing Matt Kemp of a hit down the third base line with a great diving stop and throw.  The Dodgers answered in the Top of the 5th with a couple of crowd-pleasing gems by Justin Sellers at Short and Luis Cruz snaring a low liner as he cut across the infield at Third.

Speaking of defense, and breaking from the recap for just a moment, check out what Dee Gordon did in Albuquerque tonight for the Dodgers’ AAA Affiliate the Albuquerque Isotopes: Dee Gordon turns a spectacular double play!  By the way, ‘Topes win!

The Dodger offense continued to struggle through their half of the fifth.  A double by A.J. Ellis and a two-out sharp single by Zack Greinke (there’s that man again!) set Carl Crawford up for a prime RBI opportunity off Jonathan Sanchez.  Unfortunately, Crawford couldn’t quite time Sanchez and struck out  to end the inning.  The offensive woes were soon to end, though.

Greinke continued to deal in the 6th, ending the inning having recorded 18 outs against 19 batters.

Matt Kemp finally got his first hit of the season in a big way.  After Mark Ellis drew a lead-off walk to start off the inning, Kemp hit a sharp line drive into the gap in right-center to pick up Ellis and wound up on second base with a double.  After the initial pop-up in the first inning, Kemp had looked more comfortable at the plate in his second at-bat in the 4th and finally found his stroke with the big RBI Double in the 6th to make the score 2-0.

Adrian Gonzalez followed up Kemp’s double by working from an 0-2 count, fouling a few pitches off, then taking a Jonathan Sanchez offering and knocking Sanchez out of the game with a sharp line drive double down the right field line, plating Kemp and giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.  For the first time since Opening Day, the Dodgers finally put together a sustained rally and the middle of their lineup had made significant contributions.

Greinke came out to start the 7th inning looking a little tired.  A great defensive play by Adrian Gonzalez got Greinke his first out, but a single by Andrew McCutcheon marked the end of Greinke’s night.  Greinke left having retired 19 of the 21 batters he faced, giving up 2 hits and looking downright dominant in 6 1/3 innings of work.  A great debut by Greinke.

A Paco Rodriguez sighting at Dodger Stadium!  Paco came in to relieve Greinke and immediately got McCutcheon stealing second to officially close the book on Greinke, then struck out Pedro Alvarez on 3 pitches to retire the side in the Top of the 7th.

The bullpen finished the job tonight, with Paco Rodriguez’s 2/3 of an inning closing the book on Greinke, Kenley Jansen with 2 K’s and a walk in a strong 8th, and Brandon League shaking off the rust with a 1-2-3 9th inning for his first save, striking out Neil Walker swinging at a nasty splitter to end the game.

The offense wasn’t great tonight, but it showed signs of finally breaking through, including some hard-hit balls from Ethier, Gonzalez, Kemp and both Ellises.  As it turned out, 3 runs was more than enough for Zack Greinke and the Dodger bullpen tonight.  The end result?  The Dodger pitching staff records its second shutout of the season.  Zack Greinke is your winner, Jonathan Sanchez is your loser, the Save goes to Brandon League, and we’ll see you tomorrow night when Clayton Kershaw takes on A.J. Burnett at 6:10 P.M. local time.

Welcome Back Russell, But Don’t Get Too Comfortable:

Making an appearance at Dodger Stadium for the weekend is one-time Dodger catcher Russell Martin.  Martin was serviceable as the Dodgers’ Starting Catcher from 2006-2010 and in the early going looked like a young superstar in the making.  Martin was particularly big for the Dodgers down the stretch in 2006, hitting a memorable walk-off in August against the Giants to end a 1-0 game nationally televised on ESPN (the starting pitchers in that game were Greg Maddux for the Dodgers and Jason Schmidt for the Giants,) being the third batter to hit a home run in the back-to-back-to-back-to-back home run game against the San Diego Padres that September that ended in a walk-off by Nomar Garciaparra.

Russell’s first night wasn’t much to write home about as he went 0-for-2 with a walk and found himself unable to guide Jonathan Sanchez through a rocky 6th inning.

Andre Ethier according to Vin Scully:

Vin Scully noted on-air that Andre Ethier had 4 home runs last year against left-handed pitching.  Tonight’s second-inning home run marks the 20th of Ethier’s career against left-handed pitching.  Ethier’s ability to hit left-handed pitching could be critical to both his success and the Dodgers’ success this season.

Scully Factoid Tonight:

In the Top of the 8th inning with 2 outs and one on, the Pittsburgh Pirates sent up John Harrison to pinch hit.  This would seem irrelevant, but Vin Scully always finds the relevance and has interesting factoids for every player right down to the last guy on the bench.  Scully had a great Dodger connection for Harrison.  As it turns out, Harrison’s uncle is none other than former Dodger outfielder John Shelby, a member of the 1988 Championship team.  Harrison wound up flying out to end the inning.

Getting Nasty with Uncle Charlie:

Zack Greinke dealt a few curveballs tonight that looked absolutely filthy.  Greinke’s curveball was an essential piece in his 2009 Cy Young-winning repertoire in Kansas City, and it appears to be working beautifully here at the beginning of the 2013 season.  In fact, it’s fair to say that at times tonight, Greinke’s curveball looked downright nasty.

It’s also worth noting that Zack Greinke’s pretty good with the bat, too.  His first hit was a bit of a dribbler, but his 5th inning single with 2 outs was a pretty good cut.  Greinke finished the night 2-for  at the plate.

Saturday Night’s All Right For Fighting

Just as a reminder to those of you going to tomorrow night’s game, note that the game is a 6:10 p.m. start, not a 7:10 start.  If you want to see Clayton Kershaw’s first pitch, you’re going to want to make sure you’re at the ballpark an hour earlier than the normal start time.   The Dodgers started quite a few Saturday night games an hour earlier last season and frequently the crowd was late-arriving and some were surprised to find out they were arriving in the 4th inning.  Don’t let this happen to you!

Ebbetts Field Turns 100:

The blog True Blue L.A. (you can check them out at truebluela.com) brought a great article from the New York Times to my attention tonight and I wanted to share it with all of you as well.  100 years ago today, Ebbetts Field opened its turnstiles.  Check the article out here and learn a little something about the legacy of our Boys in Blue and the great Brooklyn ballpark they called home until 1957.

First Week MLB Recap Coming Soon!

On Sunday I will be doing a recap of the first week and talk about highlights for the Dodgers and around the league.  The first week of the season has already featured a near-perfect game (Yu Darvish,) several walk-offs including a 16th inning win Wednesday by the Diamondbacks over the Cardinals that capped off a 10-9 thriller.  I’ll also be talking about something exciting going down in Chicago, where another one of baseball’s most hallowed grounds, Wrigley Field, is scheduled to get a makeover.  That and more this Sunday.

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