SAN DIEGO -- Dave Roberts talked a lot all spring about how the Dodgers would be flexible with their lineup all season, often switching based on matchups and/or availability. This struck a chord mostly with the lack of a prototypical leadoff hitter on the team, a speedster to get on base and steal bases on his way to scoring runs.
Among the unconventional candidates used in the spring was Chase Utley, who got the call on opening day, just the 12th time in his 14-year career he started atop a lineup. Utley was one of many moves that worked for the Dodgers in their 15-0 blowout win over the Padres.
Utley singled twice, doubled and was hit by a pitch in his new role, and got things started off right with a double in the first inning, one that was followed by a double by No. 2 hitter Corey Seager for the only run the Dodgers would need.
"For me the only difference is that it's the first batter of the game," Utley said of batting leadoff. "You're still trying to put good at-bats together no matter where you're hitting in the lineup."
Utley, who put up a .286 on-base percentage in 2015, the worst year of his career, is healthy again after dealing with an ankle most of last year.
The Dodgers put together good at-bats up and down the order on Monday. The 15-0 victory was the largest shutout win on opening day in MLB history per Elias, surpassing the Pirates' 14-0 win over the Reds in 1911.
The margin tied the largest by a National League team on opening day, matching the Giants' 18-3 triumph over Brooklyn in 1912.
"I think there was that continuity with that lineup and we really haven’t had that lineup all spring. But I’ve said it all along, that regardless of where I put guys in the lineup, I expect them to conduct the same at-bats," Roberts said. "Today with Chase and Corey, and the at-bats they conducted and with J.T, those first four guys today were very special."
Justin Turner picked up right where he left off in spring training and the NLDS with two doubles in five at-bats, scoring twice while driving in two.
Adrian Gonzalez came up three times with a runner in scoring position, and hit three singles to plate three runs.
Joc Pederson had two doubles of his own, while Yasiel Puig had two hits including a triple and scored three times.
The Dodgers were able to plate two runs in the first inning off Tyson Ross, then tacked on another run in the third inning. But they also ran his pitch count up and was able to chase him with a five-run sixth inning.
"Tyson’s got great stuff, he’s a great competitor and fortunately for us, we’ve seen him," Roberts said. "He made a couple of mistakes and attacked it and made him pay."
"We definitely found a lot of holes tonight. Tyson Ross is a very good pitcher," Utley said. "We were able to lay off some of his better pitches and capitalized on it."
Not bad for a team without a home run.
"I just think you look at the at-bat quality and we didn’t hit a ball over the fence today, but there were a lot of balls squared up and getting into the game," Roberts said. "You see guys taking extra bases and doing a lot of things right . If we can compete every pitch with our offense and the way we pitch, we’re going to be fine."
"It's great when everyone on the team can get some hits, getting those zeroes off the board," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "It's a great feeling coming into the clubhouse."
Ellis bounced a ball off and over the outstretched glove of a drawn-in Alexei Ramirez at shortstop in the sixth inning, then drove in another run in the eighth with a ground out. Ellis is the first Dodgers catcher with three RBI on opening day since Roy Campanella in 1953. Campanella also did it in 1949, too.
Monday also marked the fifth straight opening day started by Ellis behind the plate, the first Dodgers catcher to do so since Mike Piazza caught six straight opening days from 1993-98.
"That's something that blows my mind," Ellis said. "I can remember being sent down from camps in 2010 and 2011, upset that I wasn't going to be the backup catcher. But to find out there was a better plan up there for me, just by being patient and persistent there was an opportunity, probably due to financial reasons they couldn't go out and get a big-name catcher and needed somebody to play on the cheap. I was able to start in 2012, and find my niche in the organization.
"Having the honor to start as far as individual things go, I couldn't have imagined this was going to happen seven or eight years ago."
The Dodgers send a second left-handed starter to the hill on Tuesday night in Scott Kazmir, making his Dodgers debut. The Dodgers have actually opened the season with two consecutive southpaw starters twice in the last three years (2013, 2014), but the last time before that was 1985. San Diego turns to James Shields.
Roberts, who was showered in water and Powerade by Puig and Gonzalez after his first managerial win, said Utley would bat leadoff again on Tuesday.