For five innings, tonight’s kickoff to the East Coast road trip seemed like it’d be “same old Dodgers”. Clayton Kershaw had been outstanding other than making one mistake that Justin Ruggiano crushed into stands – one pitch after Kershaw had arguably struck Ruggiano out, it could be said – yet with Mark Buerhle cruising, Kershaw was down 1-0 and looked to be headed to a tough loss. With the exception of that one pitch, Kershaw had retired every other Marlin, but once again had found little support from his teammates.
But in the sixth inning, Kershaw’s luck finally changed. Shane Victorino led off with a double, and after being sacrificed to third by Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp doubled in the first run. (I’ll note here that while I laughed at the bunt at the time, since Victorino was already in scoring position and would have easily scored on the Kemp hit, I’ve been pretty upfront about how little I think of Ellis, so maybe trading the base for the out wasn’t such a bad idea.) Hanley Ramirez followed with his second of three hits on the night to drive in Kemp, and after an Andre Ethier strikeout – and I’m choosing to ignore his 0-4 tonight and continuing futility to enjoy the victory – our usual punching bag Juan Rivera followed with a two run blast over the left field wall. Kershaw suddenly enjoyed a three-run lead, and while each side would score once more, the Dodgers held on comfortably to take the first game of the series.
For Ramirez, the game marked a triumphant return in front of a lukewarm Miami crowd, even if two of his hits were more well-placed balls which combined to go about 80 feet on the fly rather than lasers. Hey, all looks the same in the box score, right? I would be remiss, I suppose, if I didn’t point out that not only did Rivera provide the big blast, James Loney made a fantastic play as a defensive replacement in the eighth. I’m not sure if that’ll make up for the karma we’ve earned throwing all that negativity at them – of course it won’t, nor should it – but at least it’s nice to see them add anything for once.
On the whole, Dodger pitching allowed only four hits to the hapless Marlins, and I would invite anyone who still claims that Kershaw is somehow failing to live up to his reputation to look at his game log over the last two months; save for that one disaster in St. Louis, he’s been repeatedly fantastic.