SAN DIEGO -- The Dodgers ended their spring training on a five-game losing streak, but rather than let exhibition results darken their season, since games now count the club will turn to its biggest luminary in Clayton Kershaw on opening day against the Padres at Petco Park.
After taunting the baseball gods by throwing away a perfectly good tie last Monday with a two-out hit in the ninth inning, the Dodgers dropped their final five games of the preseason, including getting outscored by the Angels 15-3 in a three-game sweep of the Freeway Series.
"When you lose four or five straight at the end, there is just a little bit of that sour taste," manager Dave Roberts said on Saturday. "Winning is always better than losing."
Enter Kershaw, who has started each of the last five opening days for the Dodgers, helping to get the season off to a 1-0 start each time.
"He's Clayton, and we're excited to get him, and we'll take him any day of the week," Roberts said. "Guys rally around him and perform their best. I expect our guys to go out there with a lot of effort and win a baseball game."
The Dodgers have won five straight opening days for the first time in their history, though that comes with a caveat. The franchise had a pair of four-game opening day winning streaks (1919-22, 1924-27) interrupted by a tie on opening day in 1923.
This was before lights and in the case of a tied game called after it became a full game, that game would end as a tie, with full stats counting for the game, and another played in its place at a later date. On opening day in 1923, the Dodgers and Phillies were tied 5-5 after 14 innings when the game was called. The Dodgers won the next day, so they technically won their first decision of the year for nine straight seasons, but just looking at opening day results this current streak of five wins is the best in franchise history.
Those wins have been largely because of Kershaw, with his 1.14 ERA on opening day — with three of his four total runs allowed in 2015, to the Padres — with 35 strikeouts and five walks in 31⅔ innings. One of those five opening day starts for Kershaw came at Petco Park, in 2012, when the stomach flu literally floored him between innings, but Kershaw was still able to literally gut through three scoreless innings.
Kershaw in his career has a 2.13 ERA at Petco Park, and has only allowed more than two runs once in 10 starts there, though he has only started once in San Diego in the last two seasons.
Kershaw will be making his sixth consecutive start on opening day, the second-longest streak in baseball to Felix Hernandez. Kershaw is one shy of tying Don Sutton for most consecutive opening day start by a Dodger, as well as most opening day starts overall, the latter also tied with Don Drysdale.
The Dodgers will have to face Tyson Ross and his great slider — profiled here by MLB.com Padres beat writer AJ Cassavell — in his first opening day start. Since joining the Padres in 2013 Ross has a 3.07 ERA and 3.13 FIP, and in his two seasons as a full-time starter the right-hander has a 3.03 ERA and 3.11 FIP with more strikeouts (407) than innings pitched (391⅔).
At Petco Park, Ross has a 2.61 ERA, understandable since it is a pitcher's paradise, and that even includes last year's weird 3.70 mark at home.
Ross has a 2.67 career ERA against the Dodgers in 10 games, including eight starts, but has suffered the hardest of hard luck, with an 0-6 record. The Padres have lost six of the eight starts thanks to scoring two or fewer runs six times.
The Dodgers have won the season series against the Padres in each of the last five years, including winning more games both at home and in San Diego in each of those seasons. In 2015 the Dodgers were 14-5, including 7-3 at Petco Park.
Since the start of 2011, the Dodgers are 61-32 (.656) against the Padres, including 30-17 (.638) in San Diego. At Petco Park during that span the Dodgers have won 12 series, tied two and lost only once.
Location: Petco Park
Time: 4:05 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA, ESPN (ESPN blacked out in LA market)
Radio: 570 AM Sports Radio LA