Dodgers look like defending NL West champions in home opener
A quartet of Dodgers slugged home runs – including Manny Ramirez, who drilled his first of the season – and pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivered a solid if not spectacular start as the Dodgers rolled past the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-5, to win their home opener Tuesday at Dodger Stadium.
Casey Blake and Matt Kemp also homered, as did right fielder Andre Ethier, who blasted a three-run shot in his first start in five games after suffering a sprained ankle.
The Dodgers, who limped home after starting the season 2-4 on the road, reassumed the look of the defending champions of the National League West as they started a three-game series with Arizona in front of an announced sellout of 56,000.
Ramirez’s 435-foot blast into the left-field stands came in the fourth inning off Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy (0-1). Dodger Stadium erupted as Ramirez circled the bases, and a few moments later he climbed the dugout steps and waved to the crowd for a curtain call.
James Loney then singled and Blake followed with his first home run of the year. Kemp hit his solo homer in the fifth inning and the Dodgers scored another run when Arizona reliever Jordan Noberto walked Blake DeWitt with the bases loaded.
After the Diamondbacks cut the lead to 6-2 in the sixth inning, Ethier slugged a pitch from Arizona reliever Esmerling Vasquez into the right-field pavilion with two runners on base to break the game open.
Kershaw, meanwhile, somewhat improved over his first his first start, allowing two earned runs and three hits in 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven and getting his first win of the season. But he again had control problems with five walks, a hit batter and a wild pitch.
In his prior start last Wednesday in Pittsburgh, Kershaw gave up three runs and walked six in 4 2/3 innings in a no-decision against the Pirates.
The 22-year-old left-hander particularly struggled in the fifth inning but escaped serious damage.
After allowing consecutive walks to Chris Snyder and the pitcher Kennedy, the Diamondbacks’ Conor Jackson hit a hard grounder to shortstop Rafael Furcal, who made a diving stab and, despite nearly lying on his back, threw to DeWitt at second for the first out.
Kershaw then hit Stephen Drew to re-load the bases but got Justin Upton to ground to Blake – who threw home for a force out – and Adam LaRoche to fly out to end the inning.
Another key concern with the Dodgers, their bullpen, continued to have problems. In the seventh inning, reliever Ramon Ortiz gave up three earned runs in only two-thirds of an inning that let Arizona cut the Dodgers’ lead to 9-5.
But Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton retired the side in the ninth inning.
Getting to Dodger Stadium wasn’t easy Tuesday morning for many fans who endured traffic bottlenecks in Los Angeles, owing to the sold-out game, the normal rush-hour congestion and a downtown funeral procession for LAPD Officer Robert J. Cottle, killed in Afghanistan while on Marine Reserve duty.
But once in their seats, the fans enjoyed the opening-day activities on a resplendent, mostly sunny day at Chavez Ravine, including fireworks that exploded after each of the nine Dodgers starters was announced. Ramirez received a rousing ovation mixed with a sprinkling of boos.
Country singer LeAnn Rimes sang the national anthem as military personnel held a giant American flag that nearly covered the entire outfield. Will.i.am of the singing group Black Eyed Peas – wearing a Dodgers jersey that had “Will.i.am” and the number “1” on the back – tossed the ceremonial first pitch.
Kemp was given his Gold Glove award in a ceremony behind home plate as Frank McCourt– the team’s owner or co-owner, depending on your legal point of view – stood nearby. The lawyer for McCourt’s estranged wife, Jamie, had said she wouldn’t attend opening day.
Talk-show host Larry King – wearing a Dodgers jersey with “King” and the number “2” on the back – then announced it was “time for Dodger baseball.”
-- Jim Peltz
Photo: Manny Ramirez hits a solo home run in the fourth inning. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire