Outside of a dreary evening against Padres’ starter Clayton Richard on Tuesday, the Dodgers‘ opening series of the 2017 campaign turned out to be quite productive. Three wins in four games is a solid outcome for Los Angeles, as the crew now prepares to carry its momentum to the mountains of Denver for a three-game set against the Rockies.
Breaking down the series in fine detail, there were plenty of notable moments which stuck out over the course of the first four days. However, we found five key components that not only made big differences in the short home stand, but may also prove to be relevant in the squad’s performance moving forward.
Kershaw is sharp, as always — Although he did admit to having a few pregame butterflies, opening day jitters were not an issue for resident ace Clayton Kershaw, who made his seventh consecutive appearance to kickoff a season.
“The day the butterflies leave, I need to find something else to do,” Kershaw told reporters after the Dodgers’ 14-3 victory in the opener. “It means you care about what you’re doing, I think, and it’s a good feeling. Just to know that you have that adrenaline, that anxiousness to get back out there, to get that first out under your belt and kind of settle in.”
Kersh took a one-hitter into the seventh inning, and at the end of the day allowed only one earned run while striking out eight opposing batters over a full seven frames of work. The three-time Cy Young Award winner appears to be in fine rhythm early, as all signs are pointing to an outstanding start to the season.
The bullpen looks solid — Besides a few little blips from righty Chris Hatcher in the first game, the Dodgers’ relief corps appears to be a cohesive unit and throwing very well early. Even without the help of 2016 stalwarts Joe Blanton, Louis Coleman and Adam Liberatore, the crew should be in relatively good shape, spearheaded by All-World closer Kenley Jansen and a fine duo of setup men in Grant Dayton and Sergio Romo.
More importantly, the emergence of Alex Wood as a viable setup option speaks volumes about the current depth of the bullpen. Equipped with a 95 MPH heater and a nasty slider on Wednesday night, Wood appears poised to do whatever is needed to maintain his big league roster spot, whether it be as a setup guy, a long man, or even a starter.
The bats are still struggling against lefty pitching — Although skipper Dave Roberts specifically tweaked his batting order in hopes of success against Richard, the club’s struggles against southpaw pitching are still very much evident. Even with the presences of lefty-killers Logan Forsythe and Franklin Gutierrez, coupled with a spot-start in center field by Enrique Hernandez, the Dodgers were only able to muster a total of five singles all night, and never advanced a single runner past second base.
Maeda is rusty, yet confident — Japanese righty Kenta Maeda didn’t look anywhere near his best in the second game of the opening series, as everything seemed to start spiraling downward after getting ahead two strikes on leadoff batter Travis Jankowski, only to lose him on an eventual base on balls. Maeda would go on to surrender two runs in that laborious first frame, and eventually allow a solo shot to right-center field off the bat of Yangervis Solarte in the third inning. Despite his struggles, though, Maeda still sounds fairly confident heading to Denver.
“It’s a long season,” Maeda said after the contest. “We still have a lot of games to play.”
Puig is in a zone — Right fielder Yasiel Puig is once again off to a stellar start, very similar to what we saw at the beginning of last season. After his two long balls on Thursday afternoon, Puig passed Madison Bumgarner and his own teammate Yasmani Grandal to assume the major league lead with three home runs.
Yasiel seems to be both relaxed and patient at the dish, as made evident by his four early bases on balls in the opening set. His swing appears to be both quicker and more compact, and so long as he maintains this new discipline without overthinking, Puig could be a vital force towards the bottom of the Dodgers’ lineup in the weeks ahead.
Please be sure to check back with us early on Friday, as Andy will be at it early with a concise series preview against the Rockies. The first game of the three-game weekend set is slated for a 1:10 p.m. local start time.
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