Talk throughout Los Angeles for the past couple of days has swirled around the Dodgers’ decision to drop Clayton Kershaw from his usual Game 1 starter status, and hand the ball to Hyun-Jin Ryu. Tonight it was time to see how that decision would look when put to the test.
As usual for an early evening start in LA, half of the fans weren’t even in their seats when the game began. Fans from other teams love to call this a lack of support for the home team, but anyone who lives here knows it’s got more to do with rush hour traffic around the stadium than apathy. The lucky ones who were in their seats early were treated to an easy first inning from Ryu and a very difficult one for the Braves’ starter Mike Mxpikylic, or whatever his Superman villian name is.
Joc Pederson got things started for the Dodgers in the first with a leadoff home run that got the crowd rocking. Justin Turner followed with a double, and Max Muncy promptly walked, putting the exclamation point on a potential first inning – big inning. Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal both immediately struck out, putting the exclamation point on the fact the Dodgers all too often don’t string together enough base hits for a big inning. Cody Bellinger walked to load the bases and that brought up Yasiel Puig with two out. The Dodgers once again found themselves in prime position to put a crooked number on the board right from the get go.
The moment did not disappoint. The count ran full. Puig did disappoint however, as he swung at ball four – which was at least six inches off the plate. Inning over.
The frustration didn’t sit long. In the next inning, Max Muncy CRUSHED a pitch to center field. The best part was there were two other Dodgers on the bases, so Muncy’s blast put the Dodgers up 4-0.
Meanwhile, Ryu was methodically shutting down the Braves.
For some inexplicable reason, the Braves let their crappy pitcher bat in the top of the fourth, then yanked him and inserted a new guy for the bottom half. This guy wasn’t so crappy, as he threw a 1,2,3 inning. Machado and Grandal were shaping up to be a strike out black hole in the middle of the lineup.
Ryu felt a little heat in the fifth, with two out, two on and pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki up. Ryu got him to pop up to Puig: threat over.
For the third time through the order, Machado and Grandal were back to back outs.
6th inning: Machado muffed an easy grounder, allowing a baserunner. He tried to steal and Grandal cut him down for a strike em out, throw em out double play! The Dodgers offense decided to make themselves heard in the sixth as well, with a solo HR from Enrique Hernandez. The Dodgers were now up 5-0.
Ryu was done after 7 innings: 104 pitches, 8 Ks, 4 hits, 0 walks, left with 5-0 lead. It was a magnificent start. He commanded the strike zone, and when the Braves made contact, it was soft, and usually an infield ground out. The Dodgers’ faith in Ryu paid off magnificently.
Caleb Ferguson took over in the eighth. He got a fantastic play (at both ends) from Machado chasing a screaming grounder into the outfield, and Muncy super-stretching and short hopping a ball to complete the out at first.
In the Dodgers’ half of the inning, Puig walked and when a pick off throw went wild, zoomed for third base, without even looking back. He was committed from his first step. It was a wonderful display of speed and bravado from the Wild Horse.
Meanwhile, the Braves were burning through their bullpen. Puig scored the Dodgers’ sixth run on a sac fly by PH David Freese.
In a bit of a surprise, at least to me, Alex Wood came in to close things out in the ninth. Wood got his first out with a running and sliding catch in foul territory by Yasiel Puig. Wood earned the second out himself with a strike out. After a pair of two out singles, Roberts had seen enough, pulled Wood and went to Dylan Floro to finish off the Braves. One pitch later, Randy Newman was blasting through the speakers at Chavez Ravine.
The Dodgers win 6-0 and go up 1-0 in the best of 5 series. WE LOVE IT!