Manny, Blake, Kemp, Ethier go deep in win
Dodgers crush Kennedy; Kershaw gets the victory
LOS ANGELES -- The starting pitcher's self-criticism combined with another wobbly bullpen performance to dull the postgame celebration of the Dodgers' 9-5 home-opener win over the D-backs on Tuesday.
The offense was in full force, with solo homers from Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp, a two-run shot from Casey Blake and a three-run blast from Andre Ethier in his return to the lineup from a turned ankle -- the first four-homer home opener in Los Angeles history. James Loney added a pair of doubles and Blake DeWitt walked three times.
But starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw couldn't get out of the sixth inning despite a five-run lead, forcing manager Joe Torre to use early a bullpen in which he's been given no reason to trust.
"I didn't pitch very well, obviously. I'm happy we got the win, but I'd rather they win because of me, not in spite of me," said Kershaw, a winner for the first time since July 18, charged with two runs in 5 1/3 innings and five walks to go with seven strikeouts. "I'm not hard on myself, I just call it like I see it. I beat myself today, that's all there is to it."
Kershaw's exit at 110 pitches despite a comfy lead triggered another head scratcher for Torre, as the Dodgers led by seven runs with two outs in the seventh inning, yet still felt compelled to use closer Jonathan Broxton in a non-save situation to keep the game from getting away. A similar scenario Friday night left Broxton unavailable Saturday in a game the bullpen blew.
"The thing we need to get straightened out is how we get to Broxton," said Torre. "It's a concern at this point. The ability is there, not only from their good springs, but the record shows you. The thing that killed us, we had two out and nobody on with a seven-run lead. But anything is liable to happen with that and we almost ended up shooting ourselves in the foot."
Ramon Ortiz was on the mound at the time, Jeff Weaver having extinguished the flare-up that Kershaw left in the sixth inning.
"He's doing everybody else's job," Kershaw said of Weaver, who has become the club's jam expert. "He has to work harder because of us."
Torre said he was toying with the idea of having Ortiz pitch the last three innings, but Ortiz couldn't even get out of the seventh, allowing four consecutive batters to reach base and three runs after two outs, including Mark Reynolds' two-run homer.
Torre brought on Ramon Troncoso to put out the seventh-inning fire and, bypassing the struggling George Sherrill, let Troncoso pitch through the eighth inning and hand off to Broxton, who struck out two in a perfect ninth inning.
Afterward, Torre met with bullpen coach Ken Howell, who emerged from the meeting vowing that the bullpen, one of the club's best assets last year, would return to prominence.
"We don't seem to have a sense of urgency that we need down there," said Howell. "It's the mental approach. We've got to close that one out, there's no excuse for that. This isn't Spring Training anymore. We're not practicing. We've got to execute. It's our responsibility to, collectively, do a better job."
Although the Dodgers are carrying 12 pitchers, Torre doesn't seem to have much confidence in Sherrill, veteran Russ Ortiz or Rule 5 rookie Carlos Monasterios in close-and-late situations. And Ramon Ortiz might be joining that group, as he's been erratic.
With upbeat reports coming from Ronald Belisario and Hong-Chih Kuo, the cavalry is en route, but that's no help for now.
Despite the pitching problems, the Dodgers avoided a three-game losing streak, having returned home and to divisional play, a parlay that worked so well last year.
"This is a big lift for us," said Torre. "If nothing else, we've won the Opening Day series, 2-1 [having lost Pittsburgh's home opener and won Florida's].
As for Kershaw, he struggled to explain back-to-back walks to open the fifth (including pitcher Ian Kennedy on four pitches) and to open the sixth inning.
"I don't think it's anything mechanical," he said. "I get out of synch and out of rhythm."
Both of those innings followed long Dodgers half-innings in a game that lasted three hours and 42 minutes. During one of those Dodgers half-innings, Kershaw stretched in the dugout and did throwing motions with a towel to keep loose, but he wasn't using the delay as an explanation for his walks.
"I don't think it's physical. It's not that I wasn't warmed up enough," he said. "I have struggled after long innings in the past. Today, I don't think it was a matter of the length of time of the inning. I just had a hard time making the adjustments."
Opposing manager A.J. Hinch credited Kershaw's expanding repertoire.
"He threw us a lot of junk," said Hinch. "Threw us secondary pitches, a lot of sliders, a lot of breaking balls which isn't uncommon and he was effectively wild. That's kind of how he pitches, he lived on the edge. Early, we were swinging through a lot of pitches and that's a tribute to what his stuff is, he's got good stuff. He did execute when it mattered the most and we fell short."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.