Saturday, March 22, 2014

Cahill and Ryu set for Opening Series Game 2

SYDNEY -- The first one is in the books. Next is the getaway matinee that will close out Opening Series 2014 and set up a long trip back to America to get the remainder of the 162-game slate going for the rest of Major League Baseball.

Saturday morning (Saturday night in Australia) at Sydney Cricket Ground was one to remember and savor.

There was a threat of a thunderstorm that didn't materialize, but it did delay the opening of the 2014 season by 14 minutes. There were swirling winds that confused outfielders and batters alike. There were 38,266 fans loving the game, particularly when foul balls came their way in the iconic Cricket Ground stands.

And there were the Dodgers and D-backs, who will go at it again at 10:10 p.m. Saturday night ET (7:10 p.m. Saturday night PT), which will be Sunday at 1:10 p.m. Sydney time.

"It feels good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said after Saturday's 3-1 win.

"We came a long way to get one. It's always good to get the first one. You don't want to be dragging around and letting momentum get started in the other direction. You want to start things off on a good foot. I don't know if there's a whole lot of meaning to it other than it's a win and you come to win every day. So at this point we can't win them all unless we win the first one, so here we are."

And here are the Dodgers with left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu facing off against D-backs right-hander Trevor Cahill in the second game after reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw defeated D-backs lefty Wade Miley in Game 1.

For the D-backs, it will be essential to cash in on opportunities.

Manager Kirk Gibson pointed out the fact that the D-backs had chances early to push a few across against Kershaw, and this came a night after Arizona was shut out by the Australian national team in an exhibition game at the Cricket Ground.

"It was kind of like we started out last night," Gibson said after Saturday's 3-1 loss. "We didn't get anything out of it, though. We battled through the game. Our pitching was good. Theirs was good. We'll have to get back at it tomorrow."

Meanwhile, we'll see what Mother Nature decides to do for the second game.

Saturday saw an early towering fly ball to left field off the bat of Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke get stalled by the wind and hit the base of the wall, fooling Mark Trumbo, who climbed the fence to try to haul it back in. Later, Van Slyke's slicing ball down the right-field line stopped slicing and went over the fence for a home run he didn't expect. Later still, Yasiel Puig hit a rocket to right-center that looked to be gone until it was in the glove of center fielder A.J. Pollock -- well before the warning track.

As of the end of this morning's game, the forecast for tonight (Sunday afternoon in Australia) was better, about 80 degrees Fahrenheit and partly cloudy.

The D-backs hope it will be better for the standings, since they don't want to face a trans-Pacific flight and more Spring Training already trailing by two games in the division.

"We have 161 games left," Gibson said. "You try to learn some things that they're trying to do against us, and hopefully we'll show better [today]."

Dodgers: Ryu a good No. 2
  • Kershaw was asked if he offered any advice to Ryu, who went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA last year in his first MLB season after playing in Korea, about following up Kershaw's Opening Day start. Kershaw didn't hesitate to answer.
"Ryu doesn't need any advice," Kershaw said. "He proved he can do it. With Ryu, you just know what you're going to get. He has such a great feel. He's pretty consistent. You hear a lot of things [about] transitioning from Korean baseball over to here, and he didn't have any problems last year. And I don't expect any problems this year, either. He'll be fine."
  • Shortstop Hanley Ramirez keyed the Dodgers' offense in 2013 and led the Majors (minimum 300 at-bats) in slugging percentage (.638) while ranking second in batting average (.345) and seventh in on-base percentage (.402). Ramirez was limited to just 86 games during the regular season because of injuries, but he led the Dodgers to a 55-31 record when he was in the lineup. Ramirez batted .455 (15-for-33) with three doubles, four homers and nine RBIs in nine games against Arizona last season, while posting a .561 on-base percentage and a .909 slugging mark.

D-backs: Cahill gets the call
  • Cahill will try to build on his second half of last year, when he went 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA (15 earned runs in 50 innings pitched). The right-hander said he will try to tone down the importance of the game.
"It's the first game of the year, so that's always a little bit more nerve-racking," Cahill said of the start. "It being in Sydney in kind of a bigger scale, it almost feels like a playoff atmosphere. I think the biggest thing is going out and treating it like any other game. If you think about it too much you probably won't be successful. Try to relax and have fun. Try to treat it like any other game."
  • First baseman Paul Goldschmidt hit .302/.401/.551 with 36 homers and 125 RBIs last year to finish second in the NL MVP Award voting, so it wasn't surprising to see him square up ball after ball in Saturday's season opener. Goldschmidt finished the game 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored.
"True to his form, he made his adjustments during the game and barreled some balls," Gibson said. "Not enough, though."

Worth noting
  • Ryu has had some cultural experiences in Sydney. When asked if he saw the sights, he said, "I saw a koala." When asked if he ate any kangaroo meat, he said, "I'll stick to beef." He also likes the idea of MLB opening the season outside of America, but would like to see it expand to his homeland.
"Opening a season in Korea is a fantastic idea," he said. "And I will make it my personal wish to do that."
  • D-backs international history also includes player development trips to Brazil, Dominican Republic, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand and Venezuela, as well as serving as hosts for the World Baseball Classic in 2006 and 2013.

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