The day started off strangely for the Los Angeles Dodgers. It should’ve been nothing but happy times and smiling faces for the defending National West champs, who went into their home opener with a 4-1 record. But Yasiel Puig showed up late this morning, and he was replaced in the lineup by Matt Kemp. Kemp reportedly threw a tantrum in response to seeing the initial lineup card, which had him as a reserve.
Things got worse from there.
The San Francisco Giants sent 12 men to the plate in the top of the first, with a mixture of walks, line drives, bloops and defensive misplays from the home squad. A Brandon Hicks double and an Arias single gave the Giants a couple more runs in the second inning, and the Giants had an 8-0 lead. They were free to coast.
Well, not exactly.
Ryan Vogelsong had a 9.00 ERA during Spring Training, and he has the same ERA after his first regular season start of 2014. He looked great early, throwing his fastball from 90 to 92 mph and allowing no runs through three innings. Then Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier hit back-to-back home runs to lead off the fourth and give the Dodgers life. L.A.’s bullpen was magnificent throughout, allowing no hits and facing the minimum over the last seven innings.
Vogelsong couldn’t get an out in the fifth, and the Giants were forced to rely heavily on their bullpen for the third time in five days. David Huff and Juan Gutierrez, two unproven relievers added to the Opening Day roster for two reasons (they can go longer than one inning and they were out of options), struck out six over three scoreless innings. Jean Machi and Javier Lopez retired the side in order in the eighth and ninth, respectively, and the Giants had an 8-4 win.
Now the Giants are 4-1, and both teams look strong and vulnerable at the same time.
The Dodgers recently placed Clayton Kershaw (back) and Brian Wilson (nerve irritation in his elbow) on the disabled list, and they’re probably going to need to either trade one of their four starting-caliber outfielders or wait until one ends up on the DL. However, their bullpen looks stocked with power arms even without Wilson, and their offense is imposing enough to make the Giants sweat even with an eight-run lead.
The Giants are capable of putting up crooked numbers, that much is for certain. What they can expect from their rotation is anyone’s guess. Vogelsong still deserves some starts to see if he can figure things out, and the Giants are sure to provide those opportunities after giving him a $5 million contract. But unless the Giants decide to go with four outfielders and a 13-man pitching staff, they’re going to need a few quality starts from Vogelsong — one of those is what Bruce Bochy told Jon Miller he hoped to receive from his fifth starter before today’s game, by the way.
In any case, the Giants can’t feel too upset. They’ve clinched a winning road trip, and they stole the one game in this series they looked least likely to win. Now it’s Madison Bumgarner tomorrow and Matt Cain on Sunday, and I’ve got to end this post here because we’re leaving for SFO. We’re flying to Los Angeles this evening, and we’ll be in Sec. 52 (the section next to the visiting bullpen) on Sunday evening.