The Dodgers couldn’t do anything offensively against Madison Bumgarner Ty Blach and the rest of the Giants’ pitching staff, as they dropped the first game of the season Thursday 1-0 at Dodger Stadium. It was the first time in eight years the Dodgers haven’t won their first game of the season.
Clayton Kershaw was immediately in trouble, as he gave up two singles to start his 2018 season. They were of the broken-bat variety, much is the Giants’ way, but they still put him in a little trouble. Luckily, he worked out of it.
Kershaw wasn’t particularly sharp on the day. He never really looked comfortable and even stumbled a couple times after delivering the pitch. His velocity was down — he averaged just 91.4 MPH on his fastball — and his slider was pretty flat, which is something he struggled through at times in 2017. He refused to throw his curveball early in the game — just two in the first three innings — but he finished his outing throwing it a bit more. He got five swinging strikes on it in just 14 offerings. He totaled 17 swinging strikes on the day, but it’s not because he was terrible sharp.
The only blemish against Kershaw came in the fifth inning. On 2-2, Joe Panik hit one of Kershaw’s-now patented drop-down fastballs high down the right field line. Off the bat, it looked foul. Panik thought it was going to be foul. It snuck inside the right-field foul pole for a solo home run. It was just Panik’s third career homer off a left-handed pitcher, if you wanted to know how rare it was.
And despite his “struggles” on the mound, he still allowed just a 79.4 MPH exit velocity, and Kershaw is one of the best in baseball at inducing soft contact (and yes, it is a skill).
Kershaw did get two singles at the plate to help lead a mostly lifeless Dodger attack. The aforementioned Blach had their number, pitching five scoreless innings with just three hits allowed and three walks issued. He struck out three — two of whom were Chris Taylor and Corey Seager to begin the game. For a guy who struck out 10.6 percent of the hitters he faced last season, it was an ominous start from the Dodgers perspective.
Yasmani Grandal, getting the Opening Day start against a left-hander, was on base three times — two hits and a walk. The only other hit came from Chase Utley in a pinch-hitting role. Utley also stole a base, while Yasiel Puig also swiped a bag in the first inning.
The bats looked off balance, and while the hitters had some long plate appearances, they couldn’t make Giants’ pitching pay. The biggest example of that was in the bottom of the seventh. With Grandal at third and Utley at first, Taylor had a golden opportunity against Cory Gearrin. Gearrin threw seven consecutive sliders to Taylor, and the last one was center-cut. Instead of jumping all over it, Taylor — for some reason — stared at it for strike three.
J.T. Chargois made his Dodger debut and carried over his strong spring training performance. He struck out Austin Jackson and Andrew McCutchen while sandwiching in a Panik ground out. He averaged 95 MPH on his fastball and showed why the Dodgers took a flyer on him.
Baseball is back, and it’s terrible.