With Chavez Ravine decked out for Opening Day festivities, the marquee matchup was the young, two-time Cy Young award winning ace of the defending World Series champions versus the young, gifted ace-in-the-making in home whites becoming the face of his franchise. The game lived up to its billing as the Los Angeles Dodgers bested the San Francisco Giants 2-1, with Clayton Kershaw outdueling Tim Lincecum to present Don Mattingly with a victory in his managerial debut.
Although one of the famed Three Tenors, Plácido Domingo, sang the National Anthem, it was Kershaw hitting all the high notes in Dodger Stadium on a warm late-March evening. Kershaw was clearly not overwhelmed by the first of his many Opening Day assignments, turning in a brilliant performance for a sellout crowd and a national television audience over seven shutout innings on an economical 96 pitches, 65 for strikes. Kershaw walked only one batter, set down nine Giants on strikes and allowed only four, mostly soft hits. Displaying no outward jitters, the Dodger lefty began the game by striking out the side, sandwiched around a Rafael Furcal throwing error.
The Dodgers pinned the loss on Lincecum, who also allowed no earned runs in his seven innings of five-hit ball, but in the bottom of the sixth, the Giants' defense let down their starting pitcher by committing two errors which led to a gift run. The first miscue was committed by shortstop Miguel Tejada who threw away a grounder by James Loney trying to force Matt Kemp who had walked.
After Juan Uribe was hit by a pitch to load the bases, catcher Buster Posey made an ill-advised attempt to pick off Kemp at third base after third baseman Pablo Sandoval appeared to make a slight gesture for the ball while Kemp's back was turned as he returned to the base. The throw was on the foul side of third base though, and the Panda could not reach through the Bison to field the ball, allowing Kemp to score easily as the ball rolled down the left-field line.
The Dodgers added an insurance run in the eight inning when Loney lined a double into the right-field corner, driving in Kemp who had walked for the third time and stolen second base. Kemp was perfect at the plate, singling in his only other plate appearance.
That insurance policy was cashed in when Jonathan Broxton allowed a solo homer to Pat Burrell on a 2-1 fastball with one out in the ninth inning, but he allowed no other baserunners while collecting his first save since August 21st last season.
Hong-Chih Kuo allowed only a walk in his four-batter eighth inning while striking out one.
Before the start of the game, the 30th anniversary of the 1981 World Championship season was honored with that season's Opening Day pitcher, Fernando Valenzuela, throwing out the first pitch to Jerry Reuss after the latter was introduced as the pitcher who needed to be replaced at the last moment for that assignment, unknowing opening the door for the fan phenonemon that came to be known as Fernandomania.
In 1960, Don Drysdale set a Dodger opening day record (since 1919) with 14 Ks in 11 innings. For regulation length games, Kershaw tied the record of nine, last accomplished by Valenzuela in 1986, Drysdale in 1965, and Van Lingle Mungo in 1937.
Tomorrow night's game features newly-extended start Chad Billinglsey facing off against lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Expect Marcus Thames to make his debut in Dodger blue.
WP - Clayton Kershaw (1-0): 7 IP, 4 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
LP - Tim Lincecum (0-1): 7 IP, 5 hits, 1 run. unearned, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
Sv - Jonathan Broxton (1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 0 walks, 0 strikeouts