By Jon Weisman
A historic day for the Dodgers began with something between a hunch and an observation by new manager Dave Roberts.
Chase Utley isn’t the Dodgers’ permanent leadoff hitter. He was simply the kind of hitter, based on his long history in the game, whom Roberts thought might do well batting first against Tyson Ross on Opening Day.
Coming up to start the 2016 season, Utley fell behind 1-2, worked the count to 3-2, and then stroked a simple, solid, sinking drive to left-center at which Jon Jay dove fruitlessly, good for a double.
No. 2 hitter Corey Seager, with almost none of Utley’s past but potentially all of his future and more, then boomed a double off the left-field wall on the fly, and it was on.
How on, we had no idea.
Their 15-0 victory (recapped by MLB.com) was the largest Opening Day shutout by any team in Major League history, according to Elias, breaking a 105-year-old record set by the Pirates at Cincinnati on April 12, 1911, 14-0.
“That first inning really set the tone for us,” Roberts said after the game. “After that, guys kept having good at-bats.”
The dominant performance created this cavalcade of conquest …
- The 15-run victory matched the largest in National League history, with the Dodgers psuedo-avenging an 18-3 Opening Day loss by Brooklyn to the New York Giants in 1912.
- It was — by far — the Dodgers’ biggest Opening Day victory, let alone shutout. The previous record was a pair of nine-run victories, at Atlanta in 1978 and at Houston in 1983.
- The biggest previous Opening Day shutout was eight runs, last achieved behind Hideo Nomo against Randy Johnson and the Diamondbacks on March 31, 2003.
- It tied a Los Angeles record for most hits on Opening Day, set in an 11-10 loss in 2006.
- Ten different players each had a hit and a run, bringing the Dodgers to within one of matching a franchise record of 11, last achieved September 2, 2002 in the 19-1 victory that was capped by David Ross’ homer off Mark Grace.
- Six players reached base at least twice. The franchise record for Opening Day is seven, last reached on April 5, 1974.
- This was the second-biggest victory ever by the Dodgers over the Padres, behind only a 19-0 victory on June 28, 1969.
First W in the books!
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 5, 2016
Who was the star of the game? Who wasn’t? Utley had two singles and a hit-by-pitch to go with his double, and two RBI. Adrian Gonzalez had three singles, a walk and three RBI. Justin Turner had what’s become his requisite two doubles. Coming off the bench to relieve Carl Crawford (1 for 3), Trayce Thompson had a double and walk in his Dodger debut.
Joc Pederson had two two-base hits, including a blistering RBI double down the right-field line in the top of the sixth that spelled the beginning of the end for Ross. The next batter, A.J. Ellis, who also walked, delivered the decisive blow to Ross with a two-run double to give the Dodgers a 6-0 lead. Taking a break from his near-flawless pitching, Clayton Kershaw faked a bunt, knocked a single up the middle, to send Ross to the showers.
And Yasiel Puig — who had, let’s face it, a relatively anonymous Spring Training, not only reached base four times, he capped it with a flourish — an eighth-inning, Little League home run in which he tripled and scored on an errant throw to third.