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Dodgers prove strong up the middle in opening day win

Rollins, Kendrick and Pederson combined to go 5-for-11 with four extra-base hits, four RBI, three runs scored and two walks in Monday's win.

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES -- Up the middle is where to look to see the Dodgers' biggest changes and newest additions for 2015, and up the middle was impressive for the team in Monday's 6-3 win over the Padres.

New shortstop Jimmy Rollins hit the game winning home run, second baseman Howie Kendrick had a double and triple, and center fielder Joc Pederson doubled, walked, stole a base, scored and made a few nice defensive plays in center field.

Rollins fell behind 0-2 against Shawn Kelley before running the count full with one out and two on in a tie game in the eighth inning. The eighth pitch of the at-bat was deposited into the right field bullpen for the deciding blow.

It extended Rollins' opening day hitting streak to 11 games, and his second consecutive season with a home run in the first game of the season. The first 10 of those 11 games in the hitting streak (plus four more years before that) came with Philadelphia, but Rollins didn't feel any extra need to impress his new teammates in Los Angeles.

"I wouldn't say nerves because of the pressure of a new team. It was nerves because you want to win," Rollins said. "You don't want to start out in the loss column."

"He's been around a little bit. Still looks great, still moving good," manager Don Mattingly said of his 36-year-old shortstop. "He's swinging the bat well."

Kendrick had a game of his own, with a triple and a double in his Dodgers debut, the 250th double of his career. Not only did Kendrick and Rollins combine for the cycle, but they became just the seventh Dodgers middle infield duo since 1914 to each have an extra-base hit on opening day, an eclectic list that spans from Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese (1948) to Jolbert Cabrera and Cesar Izturis (2003).

"There is just no easy way to get him out," said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who homered and had three hits of his own.

But it wasn't just the infielders who shined.

Joc Pederson, the youngest Dodger to start in center field on opening day in 46 years, was on base for Rollins' home run, and also doubled and stole a base earlier in the game.

But perhaps more importantly, Pederson was solid on defense in center field, something the Dodgers lacked last season. He made this diving grab to rob Will Middlebrooks in right center field to open the sixth inning.

"Joc made a huge play in center today. Got that double down the line, stole third. He did a ton from the seventh hole," said Clayton Kershaw, who was on the hook for his first opening day loss before the Dodgers came back. "I am excited to get to see what he can do over the course of the season. We have a lot of guys who can hit so it's awesome."

Up next

The Dodgers and Padres return to Dodger Stadium for the second game of their three-game set on Tuesday night, with Zack Greinke on the mound against Tyson Ross in a battle of 2014 All-Star starting pitchers.