SYDNEY -- Clayton Kershaw put on his typical Opening Day show for the Aussies on Saturday while fill-in left fielder Scott Van Slyke homered and doubled as the Dodgers beat the rival D-backs, 3-1, at the hallowed Sydney Cricket Ground, which held its first baseball game in 100 years to become the oldest stadium to host an MLB game.
In four Opening Day starts spread over two hemispheres, Kershaw is 3-0 with a 0.35 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings.
This opener was on a converted cricket pitch in front of an enthusiastic, if not baseball savvy, crowd of 38,266 that Kershaw said "really loves foul balls, I've noticed," one that Van Slyke said "had a lot more people with beer in their hands" than games back home.
A.J. Ellis conceded the game didn't have the feel of a traditional opener.
Although Kershaw pitched deep into October last season and this game marked the earliest start in Major League history, he stayed in the game to bat in the top of the seventh inning, singled sharply to left field, then was thrown out tentatively trying to stretch it for a double.
He made 102 pitches and allowed one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out seven with a walk and receiving a standing ovation when Mattingly pulled him because of pitch count. Kershaw is 8-6 lifetime against the D-backs.
Kershaw's biggest scare came in the third, when the wind knocked down a Paul Goldschmidt blast to center field that went from a potential two-run homer to the third out when it died in Andre Ethier's glove. Goldschmidt had two of the five hits, as Kershaw relied on his slider to keep the rest of the "super-aggressive" fastball-hitting D-backs off balance.
Chris Perez made his Dodgers debut and finished off the seventh inning, then Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen closed it out, a "six-inning game" just the way the Dodgers drew it up over the winter when they loaded the bullpen by bringing back Wilson and acquiring Perez.
Van Slyke padded the lead in the fourth. With one out, Gonzalez took advantage of the real estate between the plate and the backstop when he swung at a strike-three pitch that bounced away from catcher Miguel Montero, Gonzalez reaching first base without a throw.
Van Slyke then sent an opposite-field home run that the jet stream curled just inside the right-field foul pole for a 3-0 lead. It was his second home run in nine career at-bats against Miley.
While Van Slyke carried the offense for the Dodgers, the Yasiel Puig leadoff experiment got off to a bad start. Puig, who hit .122 this spring, went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and seemed to tweak his left shoulder during a seventh-inning at-bat, but he played the entire game, driving a ball to center in the ninth inning that was held up by the wind and caught.
Van Slyke won the Southern League batting title in 2011 by finishing the season with a .348 clip. He was the fourteenth Lookout in the modern era (1976-current) to lead the Southern League in batting average.
The Atlanta Braves open the 2014 season on the road, March 31, in Milwaukee. Their home opener will be Tuesday, April 8, at Turner Field. Game time is 7:10 p.m.
--- Source: MLB.com
Scott Van Slyke
- Photo2 by Tim Evearitt