Once the pomp & circumstance — and here I apologize for short-changing what was a memorable first pitch exchange including Sandy Koufax, Magic Johnson, & Orel Hershiser — was out of the way, today’s Giants / Dodgers Opening Day matchup was actually exactly what you’d expect it to be for six and a half innings.
You had Clayton Kershaw being absolutely dominant, making the Giants look foolish while allowing just three baserunners over seven scoreless. You had Matt Cain, had matching him every step of the way, despite initially running into trouble in the top of the first by allowing Carl Crawford & Mark Ellis to reach for the heart of the order. You had the Dodgers and Giants throwing zeroes at one another, outstanding pitching triumphing over mediocre bats, and that’s just the way things feel like they ought to be.
One of the two was going to end up walking away from this with an unfairly-earned loss or no-decision, and we’ve seen that happen to Kershaw far too many times over the years. You could feel it; he was going to give up one tough-luck run on a bloop single and a sacrifice fly, and he’d lose 1-0.
Except… not today. Not on the first day of the new Dodger era. Cain left after six, having thrown 90 pitches (in no small part due to a lengthy Matt Kemp at-bat forcing Cain to throw 29 in the first alone.) George Kontos set the Dodgers down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh, which Kershaw matched in the top of the eighth.
Kershaw’s spot was due up in the bottomof the eighth, and for a brief moment we wondered if Don Mattingly would lift him to generate some offense. Kershaw took the very first pitch from Kontos and crushed it deep over the center field fence for the first homer of his career and the only run he’d need on his way to his sixth career shutout. (They’d tack on three more off Kontos and two more San Francisco relievers, but who remembers that, even now?)
MLB notes that no pitcher has hit a homer on Opening Day since Joe Magrane in 1988; no Dodger since Don Drysdale in 1965. I don’t know if anyone’s ever done that while pitching a shutout on Opening Day, and it almost doesn’t matter: there’s no one like Clayton Kershaw. No one. And if the team wants to sign him to, say, a very sizable contract this evening? I… don’t think that’d look bad for anyone.
You think people were happy for Kershaw? I can’t tell.
One of the most incredible moments of our life!!! @claytonkersh22 you are amazing.
— Ellen Kershaw (@ellenkershaw) April 1, 2013