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Monday, August 3, 2020

Dodgers: 3-Ups and 3-Downs in LA’s 8-1 Win Over Giants in 2020 Season Opener

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Christian Camacho
Born and raised in the San Fernando Valley, I grew up cheering for the Dodgers and the Lakers. I went across the country to Florida State University (Go Noles!) to study Communications and Sport Management. Now, I'm back in the valley looking to contribute to the LA sports scene.

Finally, Dodger baseball is back and it is alive and well! The Dodgers took down the San Francisco Giants with a final score of 8-1 after a 7th inning rally.

Of course, one game––the first game of 60, mind you––is much too small a sample size to get a true grasp on the identity on this team. Every player in the MLB is working to shake off the rust and get back into regular-season shape. This analysis simply aims to call the game is it was. Enjoy!

3 Ups

Dustin May and Bullpen Held Down the Fort

With less than a 24-hour notice, Dustin May was expected to fill Clayton Kershaw’s shoes as the Opening Day starter. He wasn’t even a name on the 30-man roster. However, having confidence in a young arm to replace Kershaw is a testament to the depth of the Dodgers organization. Even on short notice, May put together a rather impressive start. He managed to get four strikeouts and allow just one earned run in 4.1 innings of work, despite his Opening Day jitters. His fastball was consistent in hitting 98 and 99 mph on the radar and mixed his pitches well.

May left the game in the fifth inning, and the bullpen made sure the team never looked back. Caleb Ferguson relieved May and closed out the fifth with ease. Pedro Baez and Adam Kolarek (W, 1-0) threw two strikeouts each in their combined-three innings of work. Brusdar Grateral would close out the game, giving up the only hit for the bullpen in the ninth. Collectively, the pitching staff gave up one earned run on eight hits with eight strikeouts and no walks. All in all, an impressive start for a pitching staff that had some questions in the off-season.

Patience at the Plate Wins the Race

While Opening Day home run parades are a Dodger specialty, it was refreshing to see the team put runs on the board without the long ball. That the Dodgers have power in the lineup is no secret. But you know what they say about what comes with great power…

Recent seasons have seen a reliance on home runs to score big runs in big situations, a factor that also proved to be feast or famine in terms of offensive production. However, the Dodgers opened their 2020 campaign by showing they can still produce with runners in scoring position without needing to crush the ball. With eight runs on 11 hits and five walks, the lineup proved that patience is conducive to success… Alright, and they hit a home run to cap it off, but would it be a Dodger win without one?

Kiké Shines Through

Speaking of that lone home run, Kiké had himself a night. After years as a platooned player, Kiké knows he has his work cut out for him if he wants to be a permanent fixture in the lineup as a second baseman. And in all his mustached-glory, he didn’t disappoint.

Kiké truly lit the fuse for the offense. He is responsible for the team’s first hit, RBI, and homerun. A performance like tonight is one he can only hope to continue moving forward if he hopes to remain in the lineup as the season goes on. A steady second baseman in Hernandez could relieve pressure off Chris Taylor, allowing Taylor to focus on the outfield and offer some stability to the lineup.

3 Downs

Trouble Hitting the Off-Speed

Even with patient production, the offense had a hard time connecting on off-speed pitches. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, Johnny Cueto’s delivery isn’t the easiest to read. However, there were a few too many bad reads on off-speed pitches, which led to some big swing-and-misses or called strike-threes. It is the start of the season, so the rust is understandable.

Mookie Struggles in His Debut

Just one day after signing a record-breaking contract extension, Mookie Betts was surely excited to get his first game in Dodger blue under his belt.

Dodger fans were excited to get a look at their 12-year, $365 million investment. That’s a lot of pressure for one guy. Whatever the reason, Mookie’s first day in the box was a bit anti-climatic. His first at-bat was the first of two strikeouts on the day. He wouldn’t get his first hit as a Dodger until the bottom of the 7th inning.

All told, the new Dodger right-fielder would go 1-for-5 with two strikeouts. That is not to take away from his performance on the basepath, specifically with his big slide at home that ignited the big 7th inning rally.

It’s the first game in a 12-year contract. Let’s all take a deep breath and chill pill before we start evaluating the contract.

Lackluster Production with Top of the Lineup

Mookie wasn’t alone in his struggles at the plate. It was a bit of a surprise to see Muncy take the leadoff spot with the expectation that Mookie would have the honors. Even still, the first five spots in the Dodger lineup are dangerous no matter how you arrange them––at least they’re supposed to be. Bellinger and Muncy are looking to cash in the big numbers early on. Veterans like Justin Turner are still trying to show they’ve got a good stroke and their clutch gene. And Corey Seager is working on his comeback campaign.

Despite these motivating factors, the first five batters combined to go 5-for-22 (.227) with four strikeouts and two RBIs. Again, it’s probably just a matter of shaking off the rust from a long off-season.

Ross Stripling and the Dodgers will take on Jeff Samardzija and the Giants for Game 2 of the 2020 season at 6:40 PM PST on Friday.

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