SAN DIEGO -- Despite losing Clayton Kershaw to a stomach flu after the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner gamely battled through three shutout innings, the Los Angeles Dodgers bullpen was just good enough hold the San Diego Padres at bay in a 5-3, season-opening victory for the Dodgers before a sellout crowd of 42,941 at Petco Park.
The Dodgers went ahead to stay on a pair of bases-loaded walks in the fourth inning by James Loney and A.J. Ellis, then put the game to bed on Matt Kemp's two-run homer in the top of the eighth. Javy Guerra, who as a rookie saved 21 games for the Dodgers last season, notched his first one of 2012 by pitching the ninth inning.
Kershaw's early departure forced the Dodgers to go deep into their bullpen in their first game of the season, as he was followed by a parade of five relievers. But manager Don Mattingly didn't call on long reliever Jamey Wright, meaning the Dodgers probably are OK for Friday night's game without calling up additional bullpen help from the minors.
Beast mode. Any concerns about Kemp's high strikeout rate in spring training quickly dissipated as the Dodgers center fielder went 2-for-4 with two runs scored, three RBIs and his first home run of the season, a two-run shot off Padres reliever Brad Brach in the eighth inning that landed atop the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center.
Glove Swag. Dee Gordon might have been robbed of his first triple of the year by a tough official scorer, who ruled three-base error on a ball that ticked off the glove of Padres center fielder Cameron Maybin. But nothing could take away the defensive play Gordon made to end the fourth inning, a diving stop behind the bag and on the edge of the outfield grass. Gordon got to his feet quickly and fired a bullet to first, taking what would have been a clean single to center away from Yonder Alonso.
Patience is a Virtue. Although the Dodgers could do nothing against a dominating Edinson Volquez through three innings, the one thing they did was make him work -- 44 pitches through the third. Then, they made him throw 34 in the fourth inning alone, during which Volquez walked four batters, two of them with the bases loaded, and threw a wild pitch as the Dodgers built a 2-0 lead. Volquez was gone after five, by which time he had thrown 97 pitches.
Pen springs a leak. The Dodgers enter the season with what appears to be an outstanding bullpen, but it was anything but in the opener. Although Josh Lindblom, who barely made the team, and Matt Guerrier, who was shaky last year, each came through, Mike MacDougal issued a one-out walk in the sixth that led to the Padres' first run. And then, in the eighth, fireballing setup man Kenley Jansen gave up two runs before he recorded an out, an infield single by Jeremy Hermida followed by Maybin's two-run homer.
Oops. Juan Rivera went 2-for-4 with a double, but made a ghastly baserunning blunder in the eighth inning that may or may not have cost the Dodgers a run. After moving too far off second on a liner to left by Loney that Jesus Guzman caught easily, Rivera tried to scamper back to the bag. But he began his headfirst slide about three steps too early and came to a stop with his outstretched hand still well short of the base as Padres second baseman Orlando Hudson tagged him to complete the inning-ending double play.
The table not set. The scorer's decision aside, Gordon went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts, pretty much the exact opposite of what the Dodgers need their leadoff man to do. For Gordon to steal bases and wreak havoc on the basepaths, he has to actually get on base. Moreover, the Dodgers struck out 10 times overall. Was it a one-game aberration? Or was it the beginning of a disturbing trend?