Things were going to smoothly. Until they weren’t.
The Padres lost to the Dodgers 6-3 on Monday afternoon at Dodger Stadium, and they did it in a way that was quite unexpected. San Diego roughed up 2-time reining Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw (yes, three runs allowed in 6.0 innings counts as getting roughed up for a guy who was the 2014 N.L. MVP, the first National League pitcher to win the award since 1968), then saw their normally reliable bullpen let the lead get away.
The Padres threw their own new ace, James Shields, on the mound, and he was just a tick better than Kershaw. The final pitching lines for both players:
Kershaw = 6.0 IP, 3 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BB, 8 K
Shields = 6.0 IP, 2 ER, 6 Hits, 2 BB, 8 K
Kind of creepy, huh?
All three of the Padres runs were driven in by Matt Kemp, who played his first game in a Padres uniform against the team he 567 games for. Before his first at-bat, an RBI single in the first inning to score Wil Myers, Kemp was given a standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd. He stepped back and tipped his fat to the crowd, and his former mate Kershaw gave him the time to soak it all in.
“Kershaw is a very respectful person,” said Kemp. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and I feel like he has a lot of respect for me. I think he saw the crowd’s reaction and kind of stepped back and let it play out, then got in and we went at it.”
Kemp and Shields, the two biggest off-season additions by general manager A.J. Preller, both had big games. After Nick Vincent allowed a run to score on back-to-back doubles by Adrian Gonzalez and Howie Kendrick, and lefty Frank Garces walked Scott Van Slyke on four pitches, tt was Shawn Kelley who needed just one pitch to retire Juan Uribe on a grounder to end the 7th. The relief pitcher who came over in a trade with the Yankees went back out for the 8th inning, and that’s where the troubles came.
Kelley walked Joc Pederson to lead off the 8th inning, and things simply unraveled after that. After a popped up bunt, Kelley got Andre Ethier to hit a ground ball to first base. Yonder Alonso could not field it cleanly to get a double play, and when he flipped to Kelley covering first base Shawn’s feet could not find the bag.
That put two runners on for Jimmy Rollins, who fell behind 0-2, but then being the veteran hitter that he is, fouled off several pitches and ran the count to 3-2. That’s when Kelley and catcher Derek Norris had a chat. On the next pitch, Rollins crushed a 3-run home run that proved to be the game-winner.
“He gets very scrappy,” said Kelley of the 2007 N.L. MVP, a man who can be quite difficult to strike out. “I tried to stick with the slider in the dirt and get him to chase and, being a veteran guy, he didn’t take it. I tried to get a little sneaky with a heater in because he’d seen a bunch of sliders and he was ready for it.”
It does beg the question, in the 8th inning of a tied game when the guy on the mound obviously does not have his best stuff, why did Padres manager Bud Black decide to leave him in the game instead of going to 8th inning specialist Joaquin Benoit? Black’s explanation makes a lot of sense.
“(Dale) Thayer was down today,” said Black. “Stomach flu, he wasn’t going to pitch. If Benoit gets out of it, you’re asking him to go one-plus (innings) which we’re trying to stay away from. If we don’t score, he goes back out, if we don’t score again, we probably have to go somewhere else. It’s a tough situation to go to your bullpen five or six times and use five guys the opening game of the season. That’s sort of a bad precedent moving forward.”
The Padres don’t get an easy task in game two of the series, either. They have to face former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke on Tuesday night. But, they throw All-Star Tyson Ross against him. So, odds are game two of the season-opening series will be a dogfight, just like the opener.