Clayton Kershaw, making the first of many Opening Day starts in his career, was absolutely dominant tonight against the Giants, throwing seven innings, allowing four hits, one walk and nine strikeouts in a 2-1 Dodger victory.
He threw 96 pitches in his seven innings. I thought Don Mattingly might send him out to start the eighth inning, he elected to go with Hong-Chih Kuo who was a little rusty, but came away unscathed. If it was August or September, Kershaw probably would have been sent out there.
I've written in the past about how Kershaw needs to be considered an ace -- not just a future ace. Well, this performance should only help that cause. The only reason I didn't pick him to win the NL Cy Young was because I didn't want to look like a homer. If he can be as dominant as he was tonight, he might run away with it.
OK, I'm sure guys like Tim Lincecum, Roy Halladay and Josh Johnson will have something to say about that.
Jonathan Broxton got into the game and gave up a home run to Pat Burrell. That sent folks into a tizzy on Twitter, message boards, et al. However, he was aggressive with his pitches and threw more sliders in one outing than he ever has (note: I have no numbers to back this up; it just seemed that way). His fastball was at 96-98 MPH and his slider was sitting comfortably at 90 MPH. A few had nice bite and he wasn't afraid to throw it to a lefty or righty.
So, people are going to focus on the home run allowed, but Broxton was behind in the count 2-1 and couldn't afford to either go 3-1 and potentially end of walking Burrell. I applaud the fact he went right after the hitters tonight -- something he didn't do a lot of after June 26 last season.
I'm not saying he's 100 percent back, but he's certainly not where he was during the second half of 2010.
The other great part about the win was Matt Kemp. He went 1-for-1 with a career-high three walks, a stolen base and scored the Dodgers' two runs. He drew a four-pitch walk against Lincecum in his second at-bat and worked the count very nicely in his third AB, laying off a couple of nasty changeups. He's still going to have his fair share of strikeouts, but his plate discipline seems to be improving, even if it's just one game. Quite encouraging for the Dodgers and their fans.
Don Mattingly also earned the first win in his managerial career. Congratulations to him. Hopefully it's the first of many.