By Jon Weisman
So, after sweeping the Padres in straight sets — 15-love, 3-love, 7-love — it won’t necessarily be strawberries and cream today for the undefeated, unscored-upon Dodgers.
Despite dropping a one-run decision Wednesday at Milwaukee, the San Francisco Giants come into play today with a 131 adjusted OPS (just below the Dodgers’ 137). Their fans will carry the focused energy of their own home opener and the fond memory of going 8-2 in 2015 against the Dodgers at AT&T Park, as well as the burning desire to avenge three straight years of National League West runner-up status, 2014 World Series title aside.
You had to be made of stone encased in brick under a cement umbrella not to enjoy the Dodgers’ 25 unanswered runs in San Diego the past three games — a Major League record to start the season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, breaking a record set by the 1974 Dodgers. But in baseball’s never-ending soliloquy, “What Haven’t You Done for Me Lately,” my guess is that for many Dodger fans, the season starts again today.
San Francisco is a “real” opponent, people would say, and any loss there seems to counts more than a win anywhere else.
These are also games that will test the Dodgers rotation depth, beginning today with 25-year-old Alex Wood facing 34-year-old Jake Peavy, followed by Ross Stripling, who has never pitched above Double-A, against rebounding veteran Matt Cain.
Then comes the Showcase Showdown on Saturday — Clayton Kershaw vs. Madison Bumgarner — followed by Sunday’s free-agent frolic of Scott Kazmir against Johnny Cueto.
All this with a teasing chance of rain.
That the Dodgers won the division despite losing their first seven games in San Francisco last year should put the stakes of these three April games in perspective, but the opportunity for the Dodgers to assert themselves in the early going is undeniably tantalizing. Brief as it might now seem in rear view, the Dodgers made a statement in San Diego. Kershaw made a statement. Kazmir made a statement. Maeda made a statement.
Now, Wood and Stripling step up to the mic. They have tough acts to follow. Though the Dodgers are five innings away from tying the Major League record for most shutout innings to begin a season, they can’t hold their opponents scoreless forever. And the Giants, despite their reputation for living on pitching in previous years, are a much more offensive-oriented team these days.
There’s going to be quite a buzz between now and Sunday. Can you believe there are still at least 159 games to go?