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It's a Laugher at the Ravine
"There are a thousand people who want to be comedians," Don Mattingly told me. "That's what my dad told me when I was being..."
Mattingly's voice trailed off with a smirk. He didn't need to finish the sentence. Snarky, sarcastic, a jackass. Whatever. I deserved it. I was being snarky.
Prior to Mattingly's pregame media session, I saw Clayton Kershaw taking bunting practice along with Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker with Mattingly looking on. At the end of the media session when all of the real questions were asked, I asked Mattingly if he was afraid that would mess up the swing of their best power hitter.
Ha ha. Kershaw hit that home run on Opening Day. The Dodgers didn't really do much else against Giants pitching save for Carl Crawford who wound up hittinng 5-for-9 in the series. Ha ha.
But seriously, who would have expected Crawford to come out of the game like a bucking bronco just released from the gate?
"I can't say I don't expect it," Mattingly said. "But I don't know if you expect anyone to go out and blow up right away. I expect him to hit. I thought his at-bats were good at spring training, so I really expected him to be swinging the bat good."
I didn't talk to Crawford before the game for fear of "jinxing" him. You know how sensitive some ball players can be about these things, and not knowing him very well I just decided not to test the waters. But other media folk decided to go over and talk to him. Crawford went 0-for-3 in the game.
One thing was no surprise. The Dodgers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-0. If the Dodgers would have lost, this would have taken on a much different tone. Perhaps I really would have to channel my inner comedian to quash the psychic pain of watching $215 million come up with nothing. But there were still a lot of surprises.
Matt Kemp's hitless streak was broken in his lucky 13th at-bat when he hit a double down the right field gap that scored Mark Ellis for the 2-0 lead. "Hallelujah," Kemp and his neighbor Juan Uribe celebrated after the game. Kemp wasn't too worried about hitting, but he did admit he was feeling frustrated in the Giants series. "It's just frustrating when you don't get hits sometimes," Kemp explained. "You're not helping your team win. That's what I was mostly frustrated about. But it's a new series, a new outcome — we got a win. I'm just happy about that."
After hitting doubles off of lefties Madison Bumgarner and Javier Lopez, Ethier got his first home run of the season off of Pirates starter Jonathan Sanchez, a lefty. That bomb to right field gave the Dodgers the 1-0 lead in the second inning. With all of the success hitting off of lefties this season, Mattingly didn't notice any big changes in Ethier's approach at the plate.
"He's been working with [hitting coach Mark McGwire] a lot," Mattingly explained. "He did a lot of work during the spring hitting the left-handed breaking ball. The fact he's put the time in on seeing more and more left-handed stuff."
Kemp was in awe of what Ethier has done. "He's locked in," Kemp said. "He was working hard in spring training to do that. He's locked in. When 'Dre's going really good, it's hard for anybody to get him out. You've got to keep him there the whole year, we'll be good."
- Okay this is not a surprise, but it should be brought up. Former catcher Russell Martin returned to Dodger Stadium hearing a smattering of boos from the crowd. Martin went 0-for-2 with a walk.
Zack Greinke looked like everything you would imagine him to look like on the mound. He went 6 1/3 innings and gave up two hits while striking out six on 92 pitches. No runs, no walks."First impressions are important," Greinke said. "I'm just trying to get one out at a time no matter who it is. That's the most important at any moment."
More than first impressions were the impressions Greinke was leaving on the Pirates hitters. One by one they left the plate wondering how that 92 mph fastball looked like the 80 mph slider looked like the 88 mph changeup looked like the 75 mph curveball.
"I was able to get ahead of the count with offspeed stuff," Greinke said. "That was nice." He still insists his offspeed stuff isn't great.
Mattingly put it best. "He's just one of those guys."
Slowly things are getting answered from my long list of preseason questions. Greinke looks like he's good to go. Ethier is hitting lefties, although I don't expect him to keep going on this tear. The bullpen has been solid not giving up a run. The defense has been looking good for the most part, though it can certainly get better.
The only question marks are focused on the offense. The Dodgers are now hitting .190 on offense only better than the Padres, Cubs and Pirates. That will certainly need to improve for them to get good results. After all, they're not going to play the Pirates for the rest of the season.
Besides, a bad offense on this payroll will not be funny. Not even a thousand wannabe comedians would dare think of that.
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