Matt Kemp has been the catalyst for the Dodgers offensively in the first two games of the season.
Whether it was Matt Kemp running around the bases, or Blake Hawksworth facing Buster Posey with the bases loaded and the game on the line, the Dodgers were just a shade faster than the Giants tonight, and just like last night, the Dodgers ended the night one run better. The Dodgers rallied for three runs in the sixth inning, and held on for a 4-3 victory over the Giants before an announced 44,834 at Dodger Stadium on Fireworks Night.
Kemp, who singled, walked three times, and scored both Dodger runs on Thursday night, was right in the middle of thins again tonight. He drove in the Dodgers' first run with a ground-rule double in the third inning, then turned on the speed in the sixth inning. Down 3-1, Kemp led off the frame with a single to center. Then, Kemp broke for second as Marcus Thames grounded to third base. However, as Pablo Sandoval fielded the ball, he never looked near second base, and Kemp kept running, easily making it to third base on a 5-3 groundout. He would score on a sacrifice fly by James Loney.
It was a play that Kemp called instinctive, and the result hours of hard work with Davey Lopes during the spring. Manager Don Mattingly echoed Kemp's sentiments about baserunning, stressing aggressiveness on the basepaths. Then, as the inevitable questions came about how Kemp is improving this year over last year (Kemp is 3-for-5 with three walks in the very early going this season), Mattingly smiled and said to reporters, "You talk about Matt like everything's bad. He's pretty damn good."
Kemp's run brought the Dodgers to within a run with two outs in the sixth, but they rallied for more, thanks in large part to the Giants' defense. After Rod Barajas singled, Aaron Miles hit a slow grounder to Sandoval at third base. Sandoval didn't have much of a chance to get Miles, but threw to first anyway, and the throw sailed past Brandon Belt and down the line, putting runners at second and third. Hector Gimenez then pinch hit for Chad Billingsley, and in the first at-bat of Gimenez's Dodger career, he hit the ball softly to the third base side of the mound. Jonathan Sanchez couldn't field the ball cleanly, which allowed Barajas to score, tying the game. Rafael Furcal singled in Miles to give the Dodgers the lead.
It also meant Chad Billingsley, who was lifted for a pinch hitter trailing 3-2, was the pitcher of record. Billingsley allowed three runs in his six innings of work, all off the bat of Belt, who crushed a three-run homer to dead center in the fourth inning. Billingsley walked one and struck out four in his start, and threw 93 pitches, 64 for strikes (68.8%).
Hawksworth followed Billingsley in the seventh inning and got into a jam, allowing a bunt single (to Miguel Tejada!), a line drive single, and a walk, which brought up Posey with the bases loaded and two outs. Hawksworth got two quick strikes on Posey, but the reigning Rookie of the Year worked the count full. Then Hawksworth got Posey swinging on a pitch that Gameday called a sinker, though viewers on TV might not have seen because the Prime Ticket cameras focused on Posey's bat, which had careened into the stands after Posey lost his grip.
Mattingly had confidence using Hawksworth in that spot, saying the reliever threw the ball well all spring. In fact, Mattingly has confidence in a number of his relievers, including Matt Guerrier, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning in his Dodger debut. "We have a bunch of interchangeable guys [in the bullpen], outside of Kuo in the eighth and [Jonathan] Broxton in the ninth, or even on days when Kuo isn't available or Broxton isn't available," the manager said.
Speaking of Broxton, he picked up his second save in as many nights, retiring all three batters he faced with one strikeout. "It's what I expect," Mattingly said when asked of Broxton's dominance after the game. "I know it's there."
- Ivan DeJesus wore the Silver Sombrero in his major league debut tonight with three strikeouts, but also walked in the third inning, which helped lead to Kemp's RBI double
- On the Prime Ticket broadcast, Vin Scully told a story about Gil Hodges and how players in the 1950s used to leave their gloves on the field during the game. The story picked up traction in our comments, so after the game I asked Scully about the practice. "I'm just amazed players didn't get hurt with those gloves out there in the field," he said.
- The Dodgers try to make it three in a row tomorrow with a day game on Fox, with Ted Lilly facing Matt Cain.
WP - Chad Billingsley (1-0): 6 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
LP - Jonathan Sanchez (0-1): 5 2/3 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
Sv - Jonathan Broxton (2): 1 IP, 1 strikeout