Good morning from sunny Southern California. It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning in this suburb of the City of Angels, a little chilly at sunrise but temperatures now heating up in the 60’s and expected to peak around 75 as we get into the afternoon. Perfect spring weather for a baseball game, which is exactly what we’ll be getting this afternoon down in San Diego when the Dodgers begin a 3 game set against the San Diego Padres. I’ll be hitting up the Little League Circuit this evening so my game recap might be a little delayed, but here’s some food for thought for you about this three game set.
The Dodgers and the Padres have opened the season going in opposite directions.
After dropping 2 of 3 in an exciting opening series against the San Francisco Giants, the Dodgers quickly rebounded by taking all 3 games of last weekend’s set over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Strong showings from Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Greinke, and National League Player of the Week Clayton Kershaw brought optimism that off-season moves to build up the starting rotation in Los Angeles just might pay off. Carl Crawford lit the league on fire by batting .450 and scoring 5 runs in his first week in Dodger blue. And despite ice-cold starts, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez showed signs of spring thaw by closing the week out by combining for 6 RBIs in closing out the Pirates by a 6-2 margin on Sunday. As for the bullpen, it was just about perfect the first week, sporting a 0 ERA through 5 games (with nothing to show for the 6th game when Clayton Kershaw went the distance.)
The Padres, on the other hand, haven’t had much to write home about. A patchwork lineup headed up by All Star Third Baseman Chase Headley has failed to put together a consistent offensive attack, and Headley himself has been leading the offense from the disabled list having suffered a thumb injury in Spring Training from which he has not yet recovered, further damaging the Padres’ ability to score runs. A 2-1 victory featuring a stellar pitching effort from one-time Dodger Eric Stultz has been the lone bright spot for the Padres in an otherwise-disappointing 1-5 start.
Of course, hope springs eternal and the old addage “it’s early” comes into play here as the Padres open up beautiful Petco Park for its 81 game schedule today against the Dodgers with hopes of sparking some excitement for the home crowd. Plenty of Dodger fans are expected to be in attendance today as well, with the two hour coastal drive to San Diego being a long-popular endeavor amongst those who want to make a Dodger road trip with the option of driving home the same night. The park should be packed, and no matter how these two teams are figured to finish in the division, these games usually become pretty competitive pitchers duels that give offensive-loving fans fits, but pitching-and-defense loving fans moments of sheer joy.
Myself? I’ll take my baseball any way I can get it.
Old friend and southpaw Clayton Richard goes head-to-head with Josh Beckett today at 3:45 in the opener. Beckett comes in with a record of 0-1 after having the roughest outing of the 4 Dodger starters that saw action in the first week in the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the Giants in the rubber game of the opening series, giving up 5 runs (3 earned) in 6 innings of work. Richard also suffered a loss in his first outing, getting absolutely torched for 8 runs (7 earned) in 4 1/3 innings in his 2013 debut against the New York Mets, and is coming off a year in which he gave up a league-high 31 home runs. Richard has, however, enjoyed a good amount of success against the Dodgers over the years, sporting a 6-3 record with a 3.16 ERA in his career against Los Angeles.
Game 2 of the Series will pit Chad Billingsley against old friend Eric Stultz. This will be Billingsley’s first start of the year for the Dodgers after starting the season on the disabled list and throwing one rehab start in Rancho Cucamonga last week. Billingsley was starting to show signs of being the sort of top-of-the-rotation pitcher he is capable of being last season before getting shut down in August with elbow problems. His 12-8 career record against the Padres comes along with an excellent 2.62 ERA. Stultz has been a steady presence in the Padres rotation, managing an 8-3 record with a 2.92 ERA in 92 1/3 innings pitched last season and pitching 5 shutout innings in his first start of the season. Stultz has no record and a 1.50 ERA against his former club.
Thursday’s final match will feature Zack Greinke for the Dodgers bringing his 1-0 record against veteran Jason Marquis. Greinke showed what he was capable of with his 6 1/3 shutout innings against the Pirates last Friday night and looks to continue the trend at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Marquis on the other hand suffered from both a lack of offensive support and a lack of defensive support in his first outing, surrendering 5 runs in 6 innings of work. However, due to errors, only two of those runs were earned. Marquis is another pitcher with a successful career track record against the Dodgers, boasting a mark of 6-4 with a 2.58 ERA against Los Angeles.
Don’t let the records fool you. The Dodgers and the Padres historically have had some great battles, and the comforts of home after a rough start may help cure some of what ails the Padres. This may shape up to be a good early divisional match. Stay tuned for recaps, commentary and analysis coming to you right here as this series progresses.