Brief Thoughts On The Dodgers And Padres' Season Opener

San Diego, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Dee Gordon (9) reacts after making a diving stop to end the fourth inning against the San Diego Padres during opening day at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-US PRESSWIRE

Thursday evening, the Los Angeles Dodgers downed the San Diego Padres 5-3 at Petco Park. Let's talk about this game, because baseball's back, and baseball's worth talking about!

There were seven regular-season baseball games played on Thursday, on the third of Major League Baseball's four opening days. In one of those baseball games, the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 5-3. There have now been ten regular-season baseball games played. The game with the highest ratio of runs to innings so far was this one, played in Petco Park, featuring Clayton Kershaw. There were more runs scored in Thursday's game between the Blue Jays and Indians, but that game was basically two games, which is why we broke things down all math-like.

Of course, this wasn't just any other game featuring Clayton Kershaw. This was a game featuring Clayton Kershaw with a stomach flu, and Kershaw lasted three innings. They were three shutout innings, because Padres and because Petco, but that was all as I suppose Kershaw simply ran out of gas.

It's interesting to look at Kershaw in the numbers. Not in the box-score numbers, but in the pitch-data numbers. Kershaw's fastball ordinarily sits around 93 miles per hour. Thursday, he struggled to reach 90, averaging 89.8. That's still faster than you or I could throw, unless you are amazing, but that's not quite Kershaw-level. We wouldn't expect him to throw at usual Kershaw-level. He was, again, pitching sick. But it isn't often that you can see an injury or an illness so clearly manifest in the results. Most of the time, we have to guess. Here, we can say, okay, Kershaw was throwing slower than he has in the past, and it's presumably because the contents of his stomach were pining for sunlight.

Opposite Clayton Kershaw was Edinson Volquez, who we always knew had opening-day starter potential. Validation! The thing about Volquez is that he looked very Volquez, and I don't mean that as a compliment like I would've in 2008. At times he looked overpowering, but then in the fourth inning he came apart. Two times he walked in a run, and one of the outs was recorded when Volquez allegedly tagged Andre Ethier at the plate after a wild pitch.

Volquez is a project, and it's not a bad idea for the Padres to try a project like Volquez given his raw ability and given their home ballpark. Petco's a forgiving place. But Petco's more of a forgiving place for guys who allow balls in play, and Volquez's issue is losing his rhythm and losing the zone. If he can't repeat his mechanics, he can't repeat his mechanics, no matter how enormous the dimensions. Maybe pitching in San Diego will give him more confidence and maybe that confidence will allow him to attack, but Volquez is going to take effort. He's got more kinks to work out than The Kinks. The Kinks were scrawny, see. It's an exercise joke.

What I think I'll remember most from Thursday is Dee Gordon. Gordon struck out three times and reached base only after Cameron Maybin lost a drive in the sun, but Gordon also did this in the field.

Gordondive2

Acknowledging that the pitcher got a piece and slowed the ball down, that's a hot shot up the middle just to the right of second base. Gordon flies in out of nowhere, dives to stop the ball, and gets up in time to throw the runner out. That's a spectacular defensive play that in time Dodgers fans will begin to take for granted, as we all gradually lose our appreciation of the incredible. Worse for Gordon is that he doesn't even get any credit in the play-by-play:

- Y. Alonso grounded out to pitcher

Beyond Gordon, Volquez, and Kershaw, this game featured a couple dingers. Those runs had to come from somewhere. Both of them were impressive, and not just because all home runs are impressive. In the top of the eighth, Matt Kemp faced Brad Brach and hit a ball here:

Kemppetco_medium

It doesn't look like much, because the ball barely left the yard. You could argue that the ball didn't leave the yard at all. It just stood perched there, slightly above the yard. But that's an opposite-field homer for Kemp, to right-center in Petco. Right-center in Petco is absolute death to fly balls, and especially fly balls lifted by right-handed hitters. This is an early nominee for 2012's most impressive home run that almost wasn't.

In the bottom of the eighth, Cameron Maybin homered off Kenley Jansen. It was too little too late with regard to the Padres' comeback effort, but, a telling screenshot:

Maybinpetco_medium

This is Petco Park. I've mentioned that once or twice. Cameron Maybin didn't just hit a baseball hard enough to escape Petco's field of play. He hit a baseball hard enough to watch it escape Petco's field of play. Not a whole lot of hitters walk out of Petco's batter's box, confident that they've slugged themselves a dinger. Maybin knew immediately, and didn't miss a rare chance to savor the feeling. Sometimes pitchers get annoyed by behavior like this but in Petco they're probably like, yeah, you earned it.

Magic Johnson was there, sitting next to Frank McCourt. I don't know how to wrap this up, so here's a picture of Magic Johnson looking suspicious.

20120405_tjg_ah2_029_extra_large_medium


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