Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Game of Opening Day 2015

Dodgers 6, Padres 3. As you'd expect on Opening Day, both teams sent their aces, which meant Clayton Kershaw took on James Shields.

San Diego took the early lead in the top of the first. Wil Myers was hit by Kershaw's third pitch of the year, stole second, and scored the opener on a single by Matt Kemp, meaning that Kemp's first hit and first RBI for his new team came at the expense of his old team. Shields worked around a leadoff hit from Dodger newcomer Jimmy Rollins in the home first, and both pitchers retired the respective sides in order in the second. Derek Norris doubled with two out in the third, and Rollins walked and stole second, but both players were stranded halfway around the bases.

Jedd Gyorko doubled in the top of the fourth, but was left at second, and LA struck in the bottom of the inning. Adrian Gonzalez led off with a game-tying homer, and a Howie Kendrick triple and a Carl Crawford double followed in rapid sequence and put the Dodgers in front. Crawford moved to third on a groundout, but Joc Pederson popped up, AJ Ellis was intentionally walked, and Kershaw struck out, leaving a potential lead-padding run 90 feet away.

San Diego quickly made the Dodgers regret Crawford's stranding. Clint Barmes led off the top of the fifth with a double. Two outs later, Derek Norris singled, and Kemp followed with a two-run double that put the Padres back in front, 3-2. The home team threatened in the bottom of the inning when Yasiel Puig was hit by a pitch and Gonzalez singled, but Shields recovered to leave the runners at the corners. Both teams had chances in the sixth, as Kershaw issued a pair of walks and Shields gave up a double and steal to Pederson, but the score remained unchanged.

Kershaw was lifted for an unsuccessful pinch hitter in the home sixth, and thus yielded the mound to Yimi Garcia in the seventh. Garcia set the Padres down 1-2-3. Nick Vincent relieved in the bottom of the inning and came within a strike of matching Garcia's output, but Gonzalez hit two-out, full-count double, and Kendrick followed with a double of his own to tie the game at 3. Frank Garces replaced Vincent and intentionally walked pinch hitter Scott Van Slyke; Shawn Kelley then took the mound and drew a groundout from Juan Uribe, leaving the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Joel Peralta allowed a Justin Upton single in the top of the eighth, but erased him on a double play ball from Will Middlebrooks. Kelley walked Pederson to begin the bottom of the inning. Ellis popped up a bunt attempt, and pinch hitter Andre Ethier grounded slowly up the first base line. Yonder Alonso mishandled the ball, but recovered in time to underhand it to Kelley - who then missed first base with his foot, allowing Ethier to reach safely. And with one out and two on, Rollins worked a full count, then unloaded a drive over the right field fence for a go-ahead 3-run homer. Chris Hatcher worked around a plunking of Gyorko to end the game for his first career save.

As often seems to be the case, Opening Day here proved to be all about new acquisitions; eight of the nine runs in this game were either scored or driven in by a player making his team debut (Matt Kemp, Howie Kendrick, and Jimmy Rollins). The new Dodger double play combination got off to an especially impressive start, combining to hit for the cycle and producing a healthy +.606 WPA between them.

Baseball is back! And with it comes the return of Game of the Day - kind of. It turns out that writing two full game recaps every day is a LOT of work, and the load kept me from doing almost anything else stat-related during the season last year. Since I'm doing regular updates to my tennis rankings now, and hoping to move forward with some other work as well, I have to cut back somewhere, and Game of the Day is where the cut comes.

So here's the plan for this season: I will continue to compile WPL numbers for 2015 games as they occur, and will write about noteworthy contests on a schedule that has yet to be determined - a Game of the Week post on Monday, or Game of the Fortnight every other Monday, is most likely. Meanwhile, I will once again be doing Game of the Day writeups for a past season. This year's flashbacks will be to 1991. So starting later this week (Opening Day '91 was on April 8), you can look forward to posts featuring young Barry Bonds, best-season Cal Ripken, the worst-to-first Braves and Twins, and all of the other glories of baseball 24 years ago.

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