The first Sunday afternoon game at Dodger Stadium was played in nice weather and beautiful sunshine. A sellout crowd (52,053 tickets sold according to Vin Scully) showed up to watch the Dodgers play the final game of the 3 game series against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hyun-Jin Ryu started for the Dodgers and immediately gave up a single to Starling Marte, the second consecutive game that Marte has led off the game with a base hit.
Vin Scully was in his usual narratorial groove. In the first inning, Scully got to telling the story about how the Pirates’ Neil Walker’s father Todd was scheduled to be on the same crashed plane as Roberto Clemente, but wound up staying home (and of course surviving and allowing the Pirates to have a number two hitter in today’s game.) Scully then turned from this sentimental story and talked about how Andrew McCutchen bought Dr. Dre beats headphones for all his teammates.
McCutchen hit the third pitch he faced into the Left Field Pavilion to spot the Pirates a 2-0 lead. Ryu then walked the next batter, then Juan Uribe smothered a shot down the third base line off the bat of Pirates’ reserve Catcher Michael McKenry and made a sharp throw to second for the force out. Ryu’s first inning was shaky and he may have been fortunate to escape trailing only 2-0.
The Dodgers’ Starting Lineup today featured Jerry Hairston, Jr. starting in place of Andre Ethier in Right Field, Nick Punto starting in front of Mark Ellis at 2nd Base, and Tim Federowicz starting in place of A.J. Ellis behind the plate. Ellis had caught the team’s first five games and took a well-deserved day off after directing the pitching staff to 3 shutouts in those first 5 games.
Hot-hitting Carl Crawford, however, did get the start today in Left Field after being replaced in the late innings by Skip Schumaker last night.
The Pirates countered with left-hander Jeff Locke on the mound. Crawford tapped out to the pitcher, but a single by Nick Punto and a long double by Matt Kemp put runners on 2nd and 3rd with one out for Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez showed patience, got a pitch he liked and singled back up the middle past a diving Neil Walker to plate Punto and Kemp and tie the game at 2.
Ryu and Locke settled down in the second. Ryu was so certain of his strike out to end the Top of the Second that he was walking off the mound toward the dugout before the home plate umpire could call strike 3. The kid still has some work to do, but it’s good to see that he’s feeling good about being on the mound and has a little swagger.
Carl Crawford broke his one at-bat slump (ha!) with a rocket double into the left-center field gap to lead off the bottom of the third. Punto bunted Crawford to third, then Matt Kemp’s deep fly ball down the right field line was deep enough to plate Crawford. Through two at-bats, Matt Kemp looked much more comfortable at the plate than he had the first five games.
The Dodgers were unable to capitalize on a leadoff single by Jerry Hairston, Jr. in the Bottom of the 4th, but Hyun-Jin Ryu showed great form and poise by continuing to stifle the Pirates through the 5th inning.
Carl Crawford led off the Bottom of the 5th with a single and Nick Punto followed with a single of his own. Matt Kemp hit sharply into a double play, 5-4-3, then Adrian Gonzalez hit a ball hard into the gap in left-center to score Crawford. Gonzalez was caught stretching, but the run had scored, and the Dodgers took a 4-2 lead going into the 6th inning.
Interesting Vin Scully factoid before the start of the 6th inning: on this day in 1969, Bill Singer relieved Don Drysdale after 6 innings with the Dodgers leading and threw 3 innings of shut-out ball. By doing so, Singer recorded the first officially-tallied save in the history of Major League Baseball. Little did Singer know at the time but this stat would eventually lead to the importance of the closer and the specialization we now see in pitching staffs today.
Hyun-Jin Ryu continued to zone in on the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 6th, picking up his 4th and 5th strikeouts of the game and looking more and more comfortable. Ryu finished his afternoon with a solid line: 6 1/3 IP, 2 runs allowed, 3 hits, 6 K’s and 2 walks. However, Ryu allowed only one hit after the McCutchen homer and shut the Pirates down over his last 6 innings of work. His 101st pitch fooled Pedro Alvarez so badly that he swung for strike three then lost the handle on his bat which went flying. Ryu walked off to a well-deserved standing ovation.
The Pirates’ gloves came alive in the Bottom of the 6th, with Juan Uribe ripping a long fly ball down the left field line only to get robbed of a home run near the foul pole by Starling Marte. Jerry Hairston, Jr. was then robbed of a single to left when Pirates Shortstop John McDonald ranged to his right, got the ball at the edge of the outfield grass, then made a great throw across his body to get Hairston by a step.
Justin Sellers made some big noise leading off the Bottom of the 7th, taking reliever Chris Leroux out to the Left Field Pavilion for a home run, his first hit of the season and spotting the Dodgers a 5-2 lead.
The Dodgers continued to show signs of what the offense could do with two out in the Bottom of the 7th. Nick Punto and Matt Kemp reached, then Adrian Gonzalez came up with a big hit again to drive in Punto and put the Dodgers ahead 6-2 going into the 8th inning.
Ronald Belisario came in and provided 1 2/3 perfect innings of relief.
New acquisition Ramon Hernandez made his Dodgers debut as a pinch hitter leading off the Bottom of the 8th. Hernandez’s first at-bat was nothing to write home about, as he took an inside breaking ball for strike three.
Matt Guerrier started off pitching the 9th for the Dodgers and recorded a groundout for the first out before walking McKenry. Mattingly then lifted Guerrier for J.P. Howell. Howell promptly worked a strikeout on Pedro Alvarez, then finished the Pirates off by getting Clint Barmes swinging at a filthy breaking ball low and in.
Hyun-Jin Ryu picks up the win and evens up his record at 1-1. Jeff Locke loses in his first outing of the year.
The Dodgers will have an off-day tomorrow and then face the San Diego Padres in San Diego for the Padres’ Home Opener on Tuesday the 9th. The Padres will send veteran left-hander Clayton Richard to the mound to face righty Josh Beckett at Petco Park with a 3:40 p.m. local time start. Both pitchers come in with an 0-1 record.
Starling Marte is a Bad, Bad Man:
Starling Marte was a thorn in the Dodgers’ side all weekend, doing for the Pirates what Carl Crawford has been doing for the Dodgers and getting on base. He got the Pirates’ only two hits in Saturday night’s game and recorded hits in his first two at-bats today. Marte flashed his speed as two of the four hits stayed on the infield and throws to attempt to get him were not even close. Marte’s speed came in handy in the field as well as he ran down and robbed Juan Uribe of what looked like a home run down the left field line near the foul poul. Expect to see Starling Marte make a big impact at the top of the Pirates’ order and in the field this year.
So Is Carl Crawford:
Crawford put on a little bit of a leadoff show himself. After grounding out to the pitcher in his first at-bat, Crawford doubled and singled and scored two runs on the afternoon. Carl Crawford ends the first week of play batting .450 with 5 runs scored and looking like he could be the answer at the top of the Dodgers’ order.
Adrian Gonzalez had one of those quiet afternoons where all he did was drive in 4 runs. Gonzalez showed exceptional discipline at the plate today, working counts and getting solid singles. Adrian Gonzalez was brought in the fold for his ability to produce runs, and he showed what he is capable of doing with the bat with runners in scoring position today.
Tough Luck Pedro:
Pedro Alvarez is more than happy to get this series over with and move on. Alvarez was 0-for-10 and struck out 7 times against Dodger pitchers. Alvarez, a 1st round draft pick 5 years ago, is being relied upon to provide some pop in the middle of the Pirates lineup. This weekend, however, was an absolute disaster for Alvarez. The Pirates hope that Alvarez will put this weekend behind him and have more success moving forward as his ability to produce will be key to the Pirates’ playoff hopes this year.
Through One Week…
The Dodgers finish the first week of play with a 4-2 record and trail the hot-starting Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks (with the Diamondbacks at 5-1 and the Rockies beating the Padres soundly as of this writing which would put them at 5-1) by a game in the National League West. Despite taking 2 of 3 at Dodger Stadium to start the season, the rival San Francisco Giants find themselves 3-3 after the first week and in 4th place. The San Diego Padres have struggled and will enter their home opener against the Dodgers on Tuesday in last place in the division with a record of 1-5. The pitching staff looks solid, the bullpen almost unhittable, the offense appears to be heating up a little bit, and Carl Crawford has shown why he wasn’t just a “throw-in” in the blockbuster trade with Boston last August.