Bullpen rescues Dodgers, Kuroda
LA beats San Diego ace Peavy for first time since 2003
SAN DIEGO -- Opening Day happens every season, but the Dodgers turned Monday's renewal against the Padres into something very rare, beating Jake Peavy for the first time in more than five years, 4-1.
James Loney had three singles, two RBIs and a stolen base; Matt Kemp homered and made a spectacular diving catch; Hiroki Kuroda got the win by outdueling a former Cy Young winner and the face of a franchise in transition. Peavy came into the game 13-1 against the Dodgers lifetime and 11-0 since his most recent loss to them Sept. 13, 2003.
"We'd only beaten Peavy one time," Kemp said, "so I guess we were kind of tired of hearing people say he owns us. We came out swinging the bats from the first inning."
And the reconstructed bullpen passed its first test, as closer Jonathan Broxton pumped 99-mph fastballs to record the save after Cory Wade put down a mess he inherited from Kuroda and Hong-Chih Kuo put down a mess he created himself.
"We couldn't have drawn it up any better," Joe Torre said as he kicked off his second season as Dodgers manager.
The largest crowd in PETCO Park history (45,496) turned out to see Manny Ramirez go 0-for-3 with a called strikeout, but his third-inning walk turned into an unearned run when he scored on Andre Ethier's two-out single after moving into scoring position on Peavy's wild pickoff throw.
Leadoff hitter Rafael Furcal, who had a monster April last year before his back blew out, opened the season with one of his two singles off Peavy. A single by new second hitter Orlando Hudson, a double-steal by Furcal and Hudson and a two-out walk by Russell Martin were followed by Loney's two-run single.
"That's what you're hoping for at the top of the lineup," Torre said. "Make the pitchers pitch to Manny. Even without getting a hit, I still believe he had an impact."
The Padres responded in the bottom of the first off Kuroda by cashing in Jody Gerut's leadoff double with Brian Giles' RBI groundout. Kuroda, whose first Major League win came in San Diego last April, allowed nothing more through five innings but couldn't get out of the sixth.
The first sign of trouble was Gerut's one-out bid for extra bases that Kemp intercepted with a flat-out diving catch.
"There were shadows, but I got a good jump on it," Kemp said. "If I don't make an attempt, it's a double or triple and they're back in the game."
The play loomed huge as the Padres then loaded the bases on singles by David Eckstein (a 10-pitch at-bat) and Giles and a walk to Adrian Gonzalez, who earlier in the at-bat just missed slugging a three-run homer when his towering drive hooked foul. By then, Kuroda had made 28 pitches in the inning, and although Kuroda said he wasn't fatigued, Torre brought on Wade, who retired Kevin Kouzmanoff on a tapper back to the mound to quash the threat.
"I just had to do anything I could to not let anybody score," said Wade, who apparently has inherited the pressure role of inheriting base runners.
Kuroda finished with 90 pitches, allowing one run on four hits with two strikeouts and a walk.
Kemp, who struck out in his first at-bat, homered off Peavy to center field leading off the seventh inning.
"It was a 3-1 pitch from Peavy and he didn't try to pull it," Torre said. "That's big. If he thinks the middle of the field, he'll be successful."
Kouzmanoff had another chance to pull the Padres back into the game with two out in the eighth after Kuo continued his spring wildness with a pair of walks, drawing a trip to the mound from Torre. Allowed to continue, Kuo buzzed a steady stream of fastballs inside to Kouzmanoff, who popped up to end the inning.
Broxton came on in the ninth, overpowering Chase Headley and Luis Rodriguez for strikeouts, sandwiched around a harmless popup by Drew Macias.
The Dodgers bullpen lost Takashi Saito, Joe Beimel and Chan Ho Park from last year. While the real unknown about this year's relief corps is middle and long relief, Broxton has only 20 career saves, Kuo has an elbow delicate as fine China and Wade had a sore shoulder last year and this spring. So the fact that the trio recorded the final 10 outs without allowing a run Monday means something.
"People will say what they want to," Broxton said. "I think we've got a good bullpen."
"I think the bullpen will be fine," he said. "I know there are question marks after losing key guys. But we've got good guys down there. I don't think it's as big of an issue as people think it is."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.