Despite a strong season-opening win for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the three-game series against the rival San Francisco Giants left a lot to be desired in what was expected to be a resurgent season for the boys in blue. After a 5-3 win for the Giants Wednesday, the Dodgers dropped the series 2-1 and gave San Francisco a strong foothold on which to base the sure-to-be-contentious rivalry all year.
It started off swell, with a masterful four-hit complete-game shutout Monday delivered by ace Clayton Kershaw, who seemed nearly untouchable as he shut down every Giants attempt at extra-base hits. It was more of the same for Kershaw, who has demonstrated he's one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two-plus campaigns. Shocking, though, was his first career home run, a 414-foot bomb off the Giants' George Kontos that shook up the previously scoreless game and opened the floodgates for the Dodgers' insurmountable four-run eighth inning.
Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Kershaw's bat couldn't bail the team out for the remainder of the series. In the second game Tuesday, Madison Bumgarner stifled the Dodgers' bats save for two doubles by right fielder Andre Ethier and catcher A.J. Ellis. The first career MLB start for Hyun-Jin Ryu evoked both promise and doubt: though he surrendered only one earned run over his 6 1/3 innings (giving up two more unearned runs thanks to Dodgers errors), he scattered 10 hits across those same six frames, benefiting greatly from a number of double plays and runners left on base, which sheltered his final line from how much worse it could have been. Under normal circumstances, the damage done by the Giants could have been far worse. But it's reasonable to expect a period of adjustment for Ryu, and he'll have some 30 more starts to craft his MLB game in this regular season.
In the third game of the series there finally seemed to be a shred of offensive balance (the game finished 5-3 in favor of San Francisco), although the Dodgers failed to drive in a run on a hit. Carl Crawford scored the game's first run on a passed ball, while Matt Kemp scored on a sacrificed fly in the fifth inning and Mark Ellis scored on a double play in the sixth. It was hardly an exhibition in offense for Los Angeles, as Tim Lincecum didn't surrender an earned run, and Pablo Sandoval and Hunter Pence's home runs made sure the Giants would get away with the rubber game and the series victory.
It's not the perfect barometer considering the Giants' outstanding starting rotation, but the Dodgers' offense has been sorely lacking in the season's early games. Kemp went hitless in the series, not much better than Adrian Gonzalez's one single, and if they aren't delivering, the Dodgers are going to struggle to score runs. At least Crawford is looking good in his return from Tommy John surgery to this point, going 5-for-9 and scoring two runs to anchor the top of the lineup.
Kershaw looked great, while Ryu and Josh Beckett (the Dodgers' Game 3 starter) looked pedestrian, leaving fans wanting for pitching performance, with the season debuts of Chad Billingsley and offseason pickup Zack Greinke yet to come.
The beauty of the MLB season is that its 162-game marathon gives teams plenty of time to adjust and gain ground on division rivals. Without a doubt, no one should be pushing the panic button on the 2013 bounce back season in Los Angeles just yet.