Andre Ethier is a little bit older and a little bit wiser these days, and as the right fielder turned 30 on Tuesday, there was a peace about him. Then again, it's easy to be all smiles when the team is winning, as the Dodger are. The Dodgers beat the Pirates 2-1 on Tuesday to improve to 4-1, and Ethier's solo home run in the eighth inning proved to be the game winner.
"If I could kiss my twenties goodbye this is the way to do it," Ethier said after the game. Ethier was serenaded by fans in right field in each of the later innings of the game, as they wished him a happy birthday.
Ethier had 15 extra-base hits in 58 plate appearances during spring training, and he now has five extra-base hits in five games to start the season, including two home runs. Ethier didn't hit his second home run until his 19th game last season.
"I think Dre seems to be happy all spring, he seems at peace. He really has no reason to be frustrated, as he has been swinging the bat well all spring," manager Don Mattingly said. "I think Dre is healthy. Last year you would see him at times, not hitting the ball like he's capable of but that injury had a lot to do with it. He's squared up, and power comes when you're square. That's a different guy right now."
Teammates Tony Gwynn Jr., Matt Kemp, and Mark Ellis have helped get Ethier to relax more this season, as the outfielder at times in the past would get frustrated to his own detriment.
"This is the best clubhouse I have been in in my seven years here," Ethier said. "Nobody left spring training in Arizona not liking each other, and that's a good sign."
Ethier also has a support system in place at home as well. He said about 40 friends and family members surprised him this morning with an impromptu roast, with each person revealing a memorable moment - good or bad - involving Ethier.
"Some of it was tough to hear, but it was all in good fun. Their goal was to get my head smaller, and I liked it," said Ethier, laughing. "It was fun. I'll take it anyway if it meant having my friends and family around, whether they are ragging on me or not."
Kemp joined in on the fun after the game, saying, "Dre had a good game today. It's his birthday. He's 30, he's getting old."
Clayton Kershaw pitched very well in his third straight home opener, allowing just one run in his seven innings. Not bad for somebody still recovering from the stomach flu.
"I don't think he's quite 100%. Obviously he feels way better than he did in his last start," Mattingly said after the game. "A couple of days after that, he was still struggling to eat, and I don't think he's quite built back up yet."
Kershaw was pulled after 88 pitches, though part of that reasoning was because his spot came up in the batting order in the bottom of the seventh inning. Adam Kennedy pinch hit for Kershaw, and singled.
Kershaw had seven strikeouts and no walks, and has a 0.90 ERA so far this season. He is 0-0.
The Dodgers and Pirates are at it again on Wednesday night, weather permitting. There is a 90% chance of rain tomorrow night, but if they get the game in the scheduled starters are Chad Billingsley and Erik Bedard.