Matt Kemp, San Diego Generosity Help Cure Clayton Kershaw’s Sickness

I can’t say that went in any way like we’d planned. But I’ll certainly take it.

For months, we’ve been looking forward to Clayton Kershaw toeing the rubber on Opening Day in San Diego. Along with seeing who would finally force Frank McCourt out and hearing Vin Scully’s voice again, it’s been one of the bright lights at the end of the long tunnel of winter, especially if you remember how thoroughly he dominated the Giants to start off the season last year.

…and that lasted for all of about 30 seconds, until Vin let us know that Kershaw was suffering from a tough case of the stomach flu, one so severe that Don Mattingly & Ned Colletti apparently “begged him not to pitch”. (On a side note, how is Kershaw making that call? If he’s not healthy enough to pitch, you don’t let him pitch. On the other hand, that may have led to an emergency Jamey Wright Opening Day start, a reality I’m absolutely not ready to live in.)

Kershaw gutted his way through three innings, even collecting the first Dodger hit off Padre starter Edinson Volquez, until he was forced out of the game after just 39 pitches. The fact that he even made it that far without being scored upon is noteworthy; if you saw the game, Kershaw was definitely not himself, with a fastball that topped out at only around 91 and command that clearly wasn’t there.

On most nights, losing Kershaw early against a pitcher who appeared to be dealing – Kershaw’s hit was the only one Volquez allowed through three innings – would seem to be something of a death sentence. Fortunately for the Dodgers, Padres gonna Padre, because the wheels really fell off for San Diego in the fourth inning. After getting Mark Ellis to ground out, the next seven Dodger hitters went, in order, single (plus advance on wild pitch), walk, single, bases-loaded walk, walk, bases-loaded walk, before Adam Kennedy ended the threat by popping out to shortstop in place of Kershaw. All told, Volquez walked four Dodgers and threw a wild pitch, allowing two runs to score despite only two singles. They’d tack on another in the fifth after Dee Gordon ended up on third when center fielder Cameron Maybin misplayed a flyball and scored when shortstop Jason Bartlett bobbled a Matt Kemp grounder.

Speaking of Gordon, to simply look at the box score, you’d see that he went 0-5 with three strikeouts and figure that it might be the start of a long, trying season for the young shortstop. And who knows, maybe it will be. But that hardly tells the story; in addition to ending up on third base by running hard all the way on the fly to center, he also did, well, this:

(I was going to GIF that one myself. Chad Moriyama beat me to it, so I’m grabbing his instead. All credit to Chad.) While clearly this offense isn’t going to get too far if Gordon doesn’t figure out a way to get on base, he is one of those rare players who can absolutely impact a game even if he’s not collecting hits. I suppose we’re going to have to keep that in mind if he’s hitting .240/.280/.310 in a month. (Not that I expect he will be.)

Through seven innings, the Dodgers still had just those three singles, including Kershaw’s; that changed quickly once the Padres brought in emergency recall Brad Brach, who had been halfway back to Triple-A before being told to come back once Tim Stauffer was placed on the disabled list. Brach immediately gave up three extra-base hits, including a monsterous homer to right by Matt Kemp. One down, 49 to go! Oh, and Juan Rivera gave back his double with a TOOTBLAN, so there’s that, and Juan Uribe went 0-3 with two strikeouts, in case you were looking for signs of a revival there. On the brighter side, A.J. Ellis got on base twice with a walk and a single, setting his OBP at .500, approximately where I expect it to sit all season.

With Kershaw out, this turned into a bullpen game pretty quickly, with Josh Lindblom and Matt Guerrier looking good in throwing three scoreless innings between them, and Mike MacDougal much less so in allowing a walk & an RBI double in his one inning of work while Kenley Jansen was touched for a mammoth 445-foot shot off the bat of Maybin. Javy Guerra finished it off for his first save of the season. Not to add any more pressure to Chad Billingsley‘s plate tomorrow, but this was a lot more work than was expected from the pen today – hmm, if only there was a handy chart somewhere – so it’s important that he not get knocked out early.

We’ll do it again tomorrow night when Billingsley faces Cory Luebke, and check in early in the day for a special video treat. On a side note, I’d have to say the initial game thread of the new MSTI was a resounding success, no? Over 500 comments and lots of fun with the new system. Thanks for stopping by, if you did.