LOS ANGELES – Clayton Kershaw’s dominance on Opening Day could be summed up in so many ways.
Here’s one: On a resplendent, celebratory Monday afternoon at Chavez Ravine, the worst pitch by a Dodgers left-hander was thrown by Sandy Koufax, who bounced his ceremonial throw to the plate.
Kershaw did not leave anything short. Not on purpose, anyway.
No, he is not Koufax. But he is getting there. And not even the defending World Series champions are immune. Kershaw made the mound look that much taller while standing in the sunshine, firing fastballs, flipping curves and then, would you believe? He even tagged a fastball from George Kontos over the center field wall for his first career home run – accounting for the game’s first run in the eighth inning.
Matt Cain did his level best and the Giants played a mostly clean game in a 4-0 loss to their archrivals, but they could not shade Kershaw, who needed just 94 pitches to go the distance.
Makes you wonder: How, exactly, did the Giants win in three of their five confrontations with Kershaw last season?
Starting pitching report
Cain’s first Opening Day start was a shining success, as he willed his way out of a couple jams while matching zeroes with Kershaw for six innings.
Cain didn’t allow a ball out of the infield in the first three innings, but it was less than a pleasure cruise. He had to expend 29 pitches to work out of a major tangle in the first inning after Carl Crawford reached on an infield single and Mark Ellis got plunked on an inside fastball.
Cain battled Matt Kemp for an 11-pitch at-bat, finally striking him out on a hard slider. Then Buster Posey helped out his batterymate in a huge way, throwing on the mark to third base to catch Crawford in an ill-advised steal attempt.
Following a walk to Adrian Gonzalez, Cain faced Andre Ethier – a nemesis among nemeses who owned a .456 lifetime average against him. Cain struck him out to end the inning.
Cain needed to record some efficient outs to save some pitches and the Dodgers complied, as he worked a nine-pitch second inning and then struck out the side in the third.
The Dodgers finally hit a ball out of the infield in the fourth as Kemp flied out to center, but Cain was able to induce two pop-ups after Gonzalez and Ethier hit one-out singles.
Cain pitched out of trouble one more time in the sixth after Mark Ellis’ bloop double landed in front of a sun-blinded Hunter Pence in right field. Kemp followed with a slow roller that third baseman Pablo Sandoval fielded and threw on a long bounce for the out. Then Cain did the rest, first pitching backwards while striking out Gonzalez on a fastball at the knees, then getting ahead of Ethier before spotting up another fastball for a called third strike.
That was as far as Giants manager Bruce Bochy was willing to take his ace. Cain threw 93 pitches in six innings, holding the Dodgers to four hits and a walk while striking out eight. It was the most strikeouts for a Giant on Opening Day since Jason Schmidt (nine) in 2005.
Most important: Cain held the Dodgers hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position.
At the plate
Sandoval singled up the middle in the first inning and took second on a wild pitch. Aaaand … that was the last Giant to get into scoring position.
Angel Pagan singled in the third and was thrown out trying to steal. Sandoval hit a one-out single in the seventh and got no further.
Kershaw held the Giants to four hits, struck out seven, didn’t walk a batter and needed just 94 pitches to go the distance. The Giants didn't make him throw more than 16 pitches in any one inning.
Kemp splashed Kershaw with the Gatorade bucket in a postgame interview as the sellout crowd roared.
Kontos worked a 1-2-3 seventh inning but his get-ahead fastball never found Posey’s glove. Kershaw entered the game as a .146 career hitter with just one extra-base hit (a double) in 332 plate appearances.
He became the first pitcher to homer on Opening Day since the Cardinals’ Joe Magrane in 1988.
It got messy after that, as Crawford doubled into the left field corner and Mark Ellis singled to drive Kontos from the game. Santiago Casilla and Jeremy Affeldt couldn’t minimize the damage. A wild pitch, two walks and a hit batter later, the Dodgers had a four-run lead.
Nobody demonstrates the force of gravity better than Pence, who fell down while making a catch on Sellers in the fifth inning. Unlike Aubrey Huff two years ago, who ended up getting a chalk outline after his pratfalls in right field here, Pence was able to secure the ball.
Sandoval’s elbow did not burst into flames at third base, as he made one routine throw in the second inning and found a way to get the ball across the infield to retire Kemp in a big spot in the sixth. Sandoval clenched his right hand several times after that play, perhaps suggesting he is still dealing with numbness in his fingers.
The Dodgers announced 53,138 paid. The fans in the pavilions weren’t so adept at following instructions at making a coordinated card design. They’re better at batting around beach balls.
Left-hander Madison Bumgarner takes the mound against Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu, who will be making his major league debut. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m.