Saturday, April 14, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 6, Padres 1
By Tony Jackson
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers continued their sizzling start, their best in more than three decades, with a 6-1 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium. With that, the Dodgers improved the best record in baseball to 8-1 and gave themselves a chance, if they can complete a three-game sweep of the Padres on Sunday and a season-opening, 6-0 homestand, to match the 9-1 start of the 1981 Dodgers, who went on to win that year's World Series.
The Dodgers scored all of their runs in the first two innings before cruising to victory behind a strong performance from veteran lefty Ted Lilly in his first start of the season.
Worth the wait. Lilly, who began the season on the 15-day disabled list because a stiff neck late in spring training put him behind schedule and who was roughed up for seven runs and eight hits in his only rehabilitation start Sunday for advanced Class A Rancho Cucamonga, was spectacular in his return to the Dodgers. He retired 10 batters in a row during one stretch from the first inning through the fifth. He wound up going seven innings on a remarkably efficient 79 pitches, giving up only an unearned run and two hits, one of which was an infield single.
Power trip. Matt Kemp hit two-run homers in each of the first two innings, his fourth and fifth of the season, to increase his RBI total to a team-leading 15. Kemp and Andre Ethier, who is right behind Kemp with 14 RBIs, actually hit back-to-back homers in the first inning off Padres rookie Joe Wieland, who was making his major league debut. It was the first time since April 16, 2010 -- two days shy of two years -- that Kemp and Ethier had hit consecutive homers. Kemp went 3-for-4 on the night and now is hitting .457 (16-for-35).
People, and lots of them. For the first time since their home opener on Tuesday, the Dodgers actually drew a crowd. Was it 46,549, which is what was announced? Not likely. But both pavilions were full and even the reserved level was full except for a few sections down in each corner.
Throwing it all away. The Dodgers had committed just two errors all season, both of them in the team's only loss Sunday at San Diego, and had gone 39 consecutive error-free innings when shortstop Dee Gordon fielded Cameron Maybin's grounder to begin the game and threw it into the Padres' dugout, allowing Maybin to reach second and score an unearned run later in the inning to give the Padres a shortlived, 1-0 lead.
Sacrificing logic. It took Wieland seven batters into his big league career to actually record an out that the Dodgers didn't voluntarily give him. So why did they voluntarily give him the first one? After Gordon drew a leadoff walk in the first inning, Tony Gwynn Jr., starting in left field for the second night in a row, got the bunt sign and sacrificed Gordon to second. This is the same Gordon, mind you, who might be the fastest runner in the National League and who already is 5-for-8 on stolen-base attempts this season. Sure, the Dodgers went on to score four runs in the inning. Would they have scored five, or maybe even more, if Gwynn had been allowed to swing the bat? We'll never know. Gordon, by the way, subsequently scored on a two-run homer by Kemp, something he would have done regardless of whether he had been bunted into scoring position.
That PSA about texting and driving. They debuted it on the big board in left field in the middle of the sixth inning. It featured Ethier driving, with Dodgers broadcaster Charley Steiner sitting in the back seat, microphone in hand, calling play by play of Ethier receiving a text message on his cell phone and refusing to read it because, as Steiner said, he was "keeping his eyes on the road." The message was a good, if rather obvious, one. The delivery was, in a word, cheesey.