Hill, Dodgers Hope to Rebound Against Padres

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

In the overwhelming number of game previews leading up to the Dodgers‘ season opener against the Padres on Monday afternoon, there were actually a few writers who referred to the San Diego squad as having the traits of a “glorified Triple-A club.” While the description certainly seemed to hold true in the first game of the series, the Padres almost appeared like a division contender in Tuesday’s affair, riding the back of southpaw Clayton Richard to a 4-0 shutout of Los Angeles.

Japanese righty Kenta Maeda didn’t look near his best, as it seemed his downward trend began at the game’s onset, when he walked leadoff batter Travis Jankowski after being ahead with a no-ball, two-strike count. After a Wil Myers single, Jankowski scored on a base hit by Yangervis Solarte. Myers eventually came around to score on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Ryan Schimpf, and with a 2-0 lead after one frame, the Padres never looked back.

In the third inning, Solarte drove a solo home run to right-center field to stretch the lead to three runs. Maeda would survive five full innings of work, but the hole that the Dodgers were in was way too deep to bail out their second-year starter, especially with the way Richard was throwing for the Friars.

San Diego struck again in the eighth inning, when Manuel Margot led of with a single, and advanced to third on a throwing error by Dodgers’ catcher Yasmani Grandal after attempting to steal second. Margot would eventually score on another single by Myers to stretch the lead to four — the same number of home runs the Dodgers hit on Monday afternoon, and the same number of double plays Los Angeles hit into facing Richard on Tuesday.

Retiring the last eight batters that he faced, Richard limited the Dodgers to a mere five singles over his eight-inning masterpiece. Fans of the Dodgers were reminded of the club’s struggles against southpaw pitching last year, when the team hovered right around the Mendoza line in terms of combined batting average. Third baseman Justin Turner thought that as a whole, his teammates seemed a bit rushed against Richard, similar to the troubles they had versus lefties last season.

“I hate to go back to last year, but it feels like they were anxious at-bats against left-handers,” Turner said after the game. “Not waiting guys out, getting mistakes over the plate. But we’ll get better.”

The lineup of the Dodgers showed a bit of a different look than that of Monday’s batting order, most specifically with Enrique Hernandez starting over Joc Pederson in center and lefty killer Franklin Gutierrez batting cleanup and getting the nod over Andrew Toles in left field. Although skipper Dave Roberts previously insisted that Pederson would see more plate appearances against left-handed pitching this season, he still opted to go with Hernandez against Richard.

One of the few bright spots offensively for Los Angeles was leadoff man Logan Forsythe, who reached base in all three plate appearances against Richard. Outside of Forsythe’s little flurry at the dish, the Dodgers otherwise didn’t have a runner in scoring position all evening.

Regardless, Wednesday is a new day, and veteran lefty Rich Hill will take the bump for Los Angeles, while the Padres send righty Trevor Cahill to the mound. After being acquired from Oakland at the trade deadline last season, Hill made six starts for the Dodgers during the 2016 regular season after recovering from blister issues, posting a 1.83 ERA and a .786 WHIP over 34-1/3 innings of work. Cahill threw primarily out of the bullpen for the Cubs last year, logging a 4-4 record with a 2.74 ERA over 65-2/3 innings in 50 appearances.

Roberts will likely revert back to the lineup which put up 14 runs in the opener, utilizing Toles at leadoff and moving Forsythe back to fifth, while moving Adrian Gonzalez back to cleanup and using Pederson in the six-hole.

First pitch is slated for 10:10 p.m. local time.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)
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