Opening Night


Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

I want to spend some time analyzing random games this year, watching what’s going on and giving some impressions, opinions, etc. Hopefully the games I choose will be victories…

For the first part of this article, I’m writing this pregame, so many things I’m going to write may sound silly in hindsight. But I won’t edit anything if my predictions, or comments, go horribly wrong. Then, later, I’ll be writing either as things happen or after a few innings.

It’s the Dodgers against the Padres on Opening Day in North America, so let’s ignore all the silliness that happened in Australia, celebrate opening day, and try to ignore the silly comments from the announcers.

Here’s the Padres starting lineup:

Everth Cabrera SS – Switch hitter – Career .366 OBP vs. Lefties

Chris Denorfia RF – Bats R – Career .369 OBP vs. L

Chase Headley 3B – Switch hitter – Career .320 OBP vs. L

Jedd Gyorko 2B – Bats R – Career .519 Slugging vs. L

Yonder Alonso 1B – Bats L – Career .308 OBP vs. L

Tommy Medica LF – Bats R – Played 1 game in LF last season.

Will Venable CF – Bats L – Career .303 OBP vs. L

Rene Rivera C – Bats R – Career .234 OBP vs. L

Andrew Cashner P – Bats R – Man I wish we had a DH…

I was all ready to chew into Bud Black for a bad lineup, just because of his spring training love of putting Venable in the number two spot, but he did the smart thing. I actually really like this for an opening day lineup, especially considering the injury losses he’s already dealing with. With no Quentin or Maybin, this is probably the best lineup he could make.

I like the righty/lefty switches, so there’s no way for the Dodgers to put in a LOOGY or relievers who dominate one side late in the game. I like putting Medica in the sixth spot, although I’m somewhat worried that he’s not going to see many good pitches because Venable’s not going to take any pitches, Rivera is horrible against lefties (the other catcher, Nick Hundley, is worse), and then we don’t expect much from Cashner holding a bat.

On the negative side, there’s a chance for some shockingly bad plays in the outfield. I’m not sold on Venable in center, Medica is a huge question mark, and probably a black hole, in left, and no one can protect him. Is there anyone who’s a defensive replacement in later innings? This team has to get a big lead because a lot of the bullpen gives up flyballs and if that happens, this could get scary.

After Three Innings:

Does everyone watch Padres’ home games and wish they were there? It’s been raining and winding where I am.

Cashner’s been working hard to get through the Dodgers, but yet has only given up 2 hits. It looks like he’s struggling putting the ball where Rivera wants him to. You see the constant motion behind the plate, trying to get Cashner to throw the ball lower and lower and it’s not working.

Ryu, so far, seems to be pitching with a horseshoe up his butt. He reminds me a lot of David Wells – there’s nothing overpowering coming out of his hand, but between some great change of speed and downward movement, he’s getting groundballs at exactly the right time.

Some great at bats so far from the Padres, although they seem to forget, sometimes, that they’re not a home run hitting team. Ryu was struggling with his command early and they didn’t take advantage of it.

When Cashner came up to bat with 1 out and men on first and second, was I the only one wishing that there were DHs in the National League? I used to argue that pitchers should hit because of tradition. Now I just think it’s boring.

Defensively, the Padres have looked good. I don’t think anyone gets to that broken bat single off Ellis’ bat and the easy flyballs have looked just that.

After Six Innings:

Adrian Gonzalez’s long fly out is the result of exactly what I noticed before – Cashner’s having problems keeping the ball down and it almost cost him. That’s probably a homerun in another ballpark. Denorfia handled that flyball well, although it didn’t always look pretty.

Cashner going to third on the bunt attempt to get the lead runner on Ryu’s sacrifice bunt just showed the athleticism that he’s got. He fielded it well and the throw was perfect. It’s those little things that you hope will keep runs off the board.

These last three innings have really shown the difference between pitchers who have control and know where the pitches are going and those who don’t. Cashner’s stuff, even when off, is good enough to make the bottom half of the Dodgers’ lineup (aside from Ellis) look bad. He’s also seeing his pitch count get higher and higher and the bullpen is coming soon. But Ryu has settled down and is in great control of what’s going on. He’s also sat down 15 Padres in a row, which means that the first two innings were really lost opportunities. He’s getting better as the game is going on, which is scary for the Pads.

Top of the Seventh:

I wanted to write about this since it seemed very strange to me. This is Dodgers’ strategy, but by explaining this, you can see my thought process if I’m challenging manager moves.

Ellis leads off and takes a walk, with the Padres reliever, Nick Vincent, looking very wild. The next batter, Dee Gordon, attempts to bunt and pops up in foul ground. First thing I don’t understand is why you would bunt ahead of the pitcher. This only makes sense if you’re going to pull the pitcher next and let a pinch hitter drive in Ellis off second.

But Ryu comes up to bat next. So they’re staying with the pitcher, even though the previous move kinda looked like he was done. And he tries to bunt, swings away, and then bunts foul to be the second out of the game.

If you want to keep Ryu in the game, why bunt with Gordon? You’re probably not grounding into a double play with him since he’s so fast. A hit puts Ellis in scoring position at the very worst. Then Ryu can bunt, hopefully getting them further along. One out with the top of the order coming up.

But since I’m cheering for the Padres, I’m quite happy to see Mattingly sacrifice bunt his team to no runs.

Top of the Eighth:

Let’s give some credit to Dale Thayer for stepping into the top of the eighth and shutting down the meat of the Dodgers lineup. He pitched very well, showed some great control, and deserved to be credited with one more strikeout. There are so many instances where the middle relievers face the toughest part of the lineup and yet no one cares. So right now, Thayer gets nothing. Nothing except an awesome ‘stache.

Bottom of the Eighth:

Am I happier that Seth Smith hit the home run, or that Brian Wilson gave it up?

I don’t know how many times I watch games and see, over and over again, patience at the plate being rewarded. Yasmani Grandal comes in as a pinch hitter and draws a walk. Cabrera steps up and doesn’t bunt the first pitch, but waits for the pitch he can do something with, which he ends up bunting for a single. Denorfia then works the count full and smacks the ball past the drawn-in infield, knowing that Wilson is going to send him a pitch right down the middle of the plate. All of those results come from patient hitters.

Okay, Thayer gets the win. That’s a good reward, right?

Top of the Ninth:

Really? Alexi Amarista is the defensive replacement? Please hurry back Cameron.

Great ninth inning from Huston Street, keeping the hitters guessing and getting the ground balls he needs to be successful.

It was a tough middle of the game as the Ryu made the Padres hitters look foolish, but the eighth inning made up for it, as they batted around the order. It’s amazing how little fundamental plays like Juan Uribe not getting back to cover third, allowing Grandal to steal and get closer to home, or Wilson struggling to field a bunt, are what makes the difference. I think this is how a lot of Padres games are going to look this year, scratching out runs and moving batters ahead with smart hitting.

The fear I had the Medica would be exposed in left didn’t happen, which was great to see. He looked great as a rookie in his Opening Day start. He had good at-bats, played the position well, and didn’t make any mistakes. Glad to see we have another hitter who can be dangerous in the lineup.

This was my first attempt at recapping a game while watching it. Please make comments, give feedback, so if I dare try this again (or if my wife lets me) I can do it better.

Padres 1 win – 0 losses