Another beautiful night at Dodger Stadium, great weather, a great crowd of about 40,000 on hand for Saturday night baseball, and Clayton Kershaw on the mound for the Dodgers against Pittsburgh Pirates Ace A.J. Burnett. I settled into my seat in the Right Field Pavillion around 5:30 P.M. with my Dodger Dogs, my peanuts and a Coke with Aaron (who I wrote about in a blog earlier this afternoon) and got to watch a great night of baseball. I will post pictures and tell you more about my game day experience in a blog tomorrow, but tonight let’s get to the recap.
Clayton Kershaw opened up by allowing a dying quail to center off the bat of Starling Marte that was just a little too shallow for Matt Kemp to run under. Kershaw wouldn’t allow another hit until Marte beat out an infield single to second with 2 outs in the 6th. Between Marte’s hits, Kershaw would retire 17 batters in a row, striking out 9 of them, and looking downright masterful on a perfect April evening in Los Angeles. At times, Kershaw looked even more dominant than he did in his Opening Day shutout on Monday. All of his pitches seemed to be working and he was getting a lot of bats to swing and miss throughout his outing.
Carl Crawford got in on the act as well. Crawford led off the Bottom of the First by working a walk, then stole second without drawing a throw from Russell Martin. Crawford would wind up being stranded on the basepaths as the Dodger offense again stalled, but it wouldn’t be the last time Crawford reached base and showed off his speed.
On the Pirates’ side, A.J. Burnett worked hard but pitched effectively for 5 1/3 innings, giving up only 1 run on 4 hits. Burnett also gave up 4 walks, but struck out 9. Burnett might have won but for the fact that the Pirates’ bats are colder than the Dodgers’ right now.
The one run Burnett did allow came in the third. After retiring Justin Sellers and Clayton Kershaw, Burnett gave up an infield single to Carl Crawford on a ball that Pirates shortstop Clint Barmes was not able to field cleanly and make a play on. Crawford then worked his magic, stealing second on a pitch where he got such a good jump that he was already halfway to second base by the time the ball came out of Burnett’s hand and started working its way toward the plate. Russell Martin’s throw down to second didn’t even have a chance to get Crawford. Mark Ellis then followed with a single to left, with Crawford beating Marte’s throw to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
The only real look at getting in the game that the Pirates had came with two out in the Seventh, when Russell Martin would draw a walk off of a tiring Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw put an end to the threat himself, however, catching Martin leaning off first base and picking him off to end the inning. Kershaw finished the night throwing 97 pitches in 7 innings, striking out 9 batters, giving up two hits, and allowing the one walk to Martin. Kershaw has opened the season with 16 consecutive shutout innings.
Paco Rodriguez faced one batter for the Dodgers in the 8th and struck him out. Kenley Jansen finished the 8th, then Brandon League gave up a walk and nothing else in the 9th to pick up a save in his second consecutive game.
The Dodgers’ offense continued to struggle, but on this night it was the pitching staff that carried the team. The Dodgers have one more game against the Pirates this weekend, a 1:10 P.M. start tomorrow at Dodger Stadium. Hyun-Jin Ryu will make his second Major League Appearance coming off a hard-luck 3-0 loss to the Giants. He will be countered by Jeff Locke who will be making his first start of the season for the Pirates.
All About Clayton:
Clayton Kershaw at times looked even more dominant than he did on Opening Day. Kershaw expressed frustration with himself when he struggled early in Spring Training, but has looked like a man on a mission so far this season. Kershaw’s 16 consecutive shutout innings to start the 2013 season extend his total streak of shutout innings to 20 dating back to last season. Kershaw’s line on the season so far: 1 complete game, 1 shutout, 16 innings pitched, 16 strikeouts, 1 walk, 0 runs allowed, 6 hits allowed.
All About Carl:
Carl Crawford has been the one constant in the Dodgers’ offense the first 5 games of this season. Crawford was 2-for-3 tonight with 2 stolen bases and scored the only run on Mark Ellis’s third inning single. He is now 7-for-16 on the season and has also drawn 2 walks for a batting average of .438 and an on-base percentage of .500. Crawford has also scored 3 runs in the Dodgers’ 5 games, a significant feat given that the team has struggled to score. Though caught stealing in his first two attempts, Crawford looked absolutely explosive in his two steal attempts tonight and is now 2-for-4 in stolen base attempts on the season.
Hard Luck Burnett:
A.J. Burnett falls to 0-2 on the season for the Pirates despite pitching well. Burnett gave up 3 runs in 5 2/3 innings in his Opening Day assignment against the Cubs and gave up only 1 run tonight in 5 1/3 against the Dodgers. Burnett appears to be struggling with keeping his pitch count down in his first two outings, but has gotten outs when he’s needed to and has a startling 19 strikeouts in only 11 innings pitched.
So What’s The Truth?
Truth is, the Dodger offense needs to start generating runs. The pitching staff has been stellar so far this season, recording 3 shutouts in 5 games. The Dodger bullpen is yet to surrender a run this season. While the Dodgers definitely have the arms they need to shut down their opponents’ offenses, their pitchers could use a few runs to work with to take off some of the pressure and allow for some margin for error. The offense has shown a few signs of life, with Adrian Gonzalez doubling for the second consecutive game and Andre Ethier picking up another solid single tonight. Carl Crawford has been stellar at the top of the order and Mark Ellis has delivered a couple timely hits. But Matt Kemp, Luis Cruz, Justin Sellers and A.J. Ellis have been mostly dormant and have not helped the Dodgers much when given opportunities to do so with runners in scoring position. The offense needs to step up for the Dodgers to continue to win games and make a strong showing in the National League West.