Game 1 of 162 – Defeat from the Jaws of Victory
Opening day came and went yesterday afternoon with a lot of excitement, fanfare, and ultimately disappointment for Padres fans. Despite the numbers on the scoreboard at the end of the day, it’s safe to assume that the new face Padres showed a lot of promise for the rest of the season. Sure, the game was for the most part a pitcher’s duel that featured little offensive prowess outside of Kemp’s triumphant return to Chavez Ravine. Nonetheless, the team looked solid and ready to compete – something that hopefully has no sign of slowing down.
So let’s do an old exercise in reviewing this game, shall we? How about three up and three down?
Three up (Three Good Things!)
- James Shields Opening Day Dominance – James Shields was nothing but pure gamer on the mound Monday afternoon. The stat line doesn’t lie – 6.0 IP, 8 K’s, 2 ER, 6 hits. That’s a fantastic outing that is sure to win you ball games if the offense and bullpen can keep pace. Outside of his statistical performance, his emotional performance was admirable and just plain exciting to watch. Even when he was feeling winded, Shields didn’t let anyone see him sweat. At the end of the 6th, just as Buddy Black was apparently planning to pull the plug on Shields, you could see James let out a primal roar and pound his chest. Now THAT is someone I want on the mound for me whenever we can get him. Great job, James.
- Matt Kemp’s “Homecoming” Swing – Yes, Opening Day comes with a lot of expected fanfare and excitement, but it was clear that Monday afternoon was the “Matt Kemp Show.” Kemp posted a 2-for-4 line with 3 RBI and an extra base hit. On top of that, Kershaw (who had 9 K’s on the day) couldn’t really figure out a way to strike Kemp out. Indeed, the offensive production for the Padres came from one of its newest and most coveted members… and how odd (and wonderful) for him to play well at his old stomping grounds. With any luck, Kemp will continue to play well against his old club, which will serve the Padres well in their quest for being the best in the west. Besides. I’m sure Kemp wouldn’t mind being a three-time NL West champ, no matter what uniform he’s wearing. Clearly his Dodger Blue is in the rearview mirror at this point.
- Derek Norris’ Beastly Beard – This guy is tough. Not just “catcher” tough, but “pure-athlete” tough. In addition to going 2-for-4 on the day, Norris took a bat swing from Carl Crawford off the hand in the 2nd inning and stayed in the game after what seemed to be a scary moment. Clearly, there was no reason to worry since Norris got right back in the game and stroked a double into dead center off of Kershaw half-an-inning later. Offensively Norris did a fantastic job, and he even caught Puig attempting to steal 2nd base in the 8th Overall, I’d give Norris and his mean beard a gold star on the day. Glad to see a strong backstop making his presence known on this Padres club.
Three down (Three Not-so-Good Things)
- Shawn Kelley’s Mistakes and Mental Errors – Stuff happens. It’s game 1 of 162, so I’m not terribly worried about the struggles that Kelley endured. Nonetheless, there was a bit of rust to shake off for the young pitcher Monday afternoon as he surrendered a three-run shot to Jimmy Rollins that ultimately proved to be the deciding factor of the game. Kelley misjudged where first base was and committed the team’s lone error of the day, and he also accidentally elbowed Yonder Alonso in the face after a bunt pop-up. Fortunately, Kelley will have a chance to redeem himself at some point during the season, I am sure.
- Generally Speaking, the Bullpen’s Blunders – Again, stuff happens. It’s not the end of the world, but the way the bullpen closed out yesterday’s game is really a tough break for the team. The bullpen surrendered 4 runs yesterday afternoon; I don’t need to remind everyone how the Padres bullpen last season went 60-1 when the team was leading after 6 innings. But nobody is perfect, and even when the best laid-out plans go for naught, it’s understandable to be a little upset. I’ll reiterate – it’s game one. Don’t hit the panic button yet.
- I don’t Really Have a Third Bad Thing – But did you see the team’s RISP? 3-for-8?? Man that’s a refreshing change of pace! Happy to see the team doing work when opportunities are presented. Hopefully, this trend continues and there will never be a need for a third bad thing when writing about the team.
Opening Day is always a memorable and pleasant time for every baseball fan – no matter what insignia is emblazoned across your hat. Yesterday was no exception for Padres fans, and while losing isn’t any fun (read: LOSING IS THE WORST), there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to this new team. I certainly do mean new – only Gyorko and Alonso were with the team last season when looking at yesterday’s starting lineup. Think about that: 7 out of 9 players were picked up this offseason!
Fret not Padres fans, there is a lot of baseball left to play. And with any luck, there will be a lot more positives to discuss moving forward as well.