It Was a Good Day, Mate!
By Ben Chambers
I guess it was technically a good weekend, as the games were spread out over multiple days in Austrailia, even if the two main games were both on the same day here. Either way, it was a great time to be a Dodgers fan. Here’s a rundown of the action that happened at Sydney Cricket Ground:
Before the season got started, the Dodgers scheduled an exhibition game with the Australian National Team. There were many benefits to the game, including getting one last chance to warm up before the games started counting. The Dodgers let 2013 Lookouts’ starting pitcher Zach Lee take the mound for the start. He had a very strong performance, continuing to shine when the spotlight is on him. He pitched four innings, gave up one run on three hits, issued zero walks and struck out six. The video below shows some of his dominance, including striking out the side in the 4th inning.
There was another former Lookouts’ player who had a huge game: Yasiel Puig. When Puig broke into the majors, he took the league by storm. First by his arm and then by his bat. The first game after he was called up, he made a catch on the track and then threw out a base runner trying to get back to first base to end the game. Most of the teams in the Majors now know about the cannon he possesses. Word may not have reached all the way down under, however. In the 6th inning, a runner from second base tried to score on a single, and Puig threw him out by a mile.
Puig’s bat made its appearance in the 8th inning. Down 2-0, Puig came to bat with a runner on first, and he launched one deep to left field, tying the game. The Dodgers were able to tack on two more runs in the inning and that was all that they needed to win the game.
A few other Lookouts made their way into the game. Scott Van Slyke played the whole game, but went 0-4 with 3 strikeouts. Dee Gordon also started the game, but went 0-2 with a strikeout. Joc Pederson came in late in the game, and his only plate appearance was a walk. Rojas pinch-hit in the 9th inning, but struck out. Former Lookouts’ pitcher Chris Withrow got the last two outs of the 8th inning, striking out both the batters he faced.
This game was a battle of lefties, with the reigning NL Cy Young award winner in Clayton Kershaw getting the win and Wade Miley taking the loss. Miley didn’t have a bad outing, though. He and the other Diamondbacks’ pitchers were able to tame Puig, where he went 0-5 with three strikeouts. It was the other former Lookout who started the game which was the difference in the game: Scott Van Slyke.
Van Slyke came up to bat in the 2nd inning, and absolutely rifled one to left field. It was hit so hard that the left fielder for the Diamondbacks, Mark Trumbo, turned around and climbed the fence before he even looked back for the ball. Also, as Van Slyke was running past first base, the Dodgers first base coach was giving him a high 5 as if he hit it all the way out. The wind was coming in directly from left field, though. When Van Slyke was about halfway to second base, everyone saw the ball hit off the wall around stomach high, giving him an unexpected double. Two batters later, the Dodgers scored their first run of the game.
In the 4th inning, Van Slyke came back up with Adrian Gonzalez on first base, and he actually did get that ball to leave the park. He snuck one out, with it ducking just inside the right field foul pole. It was another surprise for Van Slyke, as he said after the game that he thought it would either get caught or go foul, and that he didn’t think it had a chance to get out of the park.
That homer the Dodgers a 3-0 lead at the time, and when you have Kershaw on the mound, as well as the bullpen that they have, three runs seems like an insurmountable lead. Although Kershaw did end up giving a run, once it got the the 9th inning, the ball went to Dodgers closer, and former Lookouts closer, Kenley Jansen. The fireballer gave up a 2-out walk, but quickly got the last batter to ground out, closing the door on that game.
The score of game two made the game seem much closer than it really was. Throughout the game, the Dodgers were able to get onto Diamondbacks starter Trevor Cahill, who before last night was 6-0 in 10 starts against them. Two former Lookouts who led the charge against Cahill were Dee Gordon and Yasiel Puig.
Gordon grounded out to lead off the game, but that was the only out he would produce all game, going 3-4 with two runs scored, one RBI, and was also hit by a pitch. Puig hit right behind him, and went 3-for-5 with one run scored, two RBIs, a strikeout and was also hit by a pitch. Puig has always been a phenomenal talent, but a very aggressive player and that did get him into a little trouble on the base paths. He got caught in a rundown in the 3rd inning when he tried to stretch a single into a double. Also, in the 6th inning, a ball trickled away from the Diamondbacks’ catcher. Puig tried to take 3rd base, but a slight hesitation on his part was all that was needed to easily throw him out.
By the time that former Lookouts’ pitcher Chris Withrow took the mound for the 6th inning, the Dodgers were already winning by a score of 6-0. After giving up a walk and a single to start the inning, he was able to induce two ground balls which lead to three outs, and got him out of the jam. Kenley Jansen might have thought that he had the night off with such a large lead, but the Diamondbacks rallied in the 8th and 9th innings. Jansen took the mound only needing one out to finish the game, and a man on base. Mark Trumbo jumped on the first pitch he saw from him, and hit a home run, bringing the Diamondbacks with two of the Dodgers. Jansen got the best of Parra, however, and struck him out on four pitches to end the game, giving the Dodgers the sweep down under.
It was definitely a great opening series, in a great venue. If this is a glimpse of what the Dodgers are going to look like this year, then they’re going to win a ton of games. Baseball Prospectus projects them to win 98 games this season, and that’s hard to argue against that after the last couple of days. It’s very early, but it looks like they’re poised to win the division and make a postseason run.