Dodger Pitching Gets First Test In San Diego
Two teams anxious to test their pitching strength will face off in a season-opening, four-game series Monday afternoon when the defending West Division Champion Dodgers (84-78 last season) take on the Padres at Qualcomm Stadium. San Diego finished last in the West with a 63-99 record a year ago.
Hiroki Kuroda (9-10, 3.73 in 2008) will start the year on the mound for the Dodgers against Padre Ace Jake Peavy (10-11, 2.85). Kuroda, honored to get his first major league Opening Day assignment (he hurled five openers in Japan), is the new, designated No. 1 starter in the Dodger rotation. The 34-year-old replaces Derek Lowe, who went a sterling 14-11, 3.24 last year before opting for free agency. Peavy is one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy, although he suffered through an injury-plagued 2008. According to the Padres’ website, he has completely recovered from his woes, which is bad news for LA. The San Diego right hander is at his best against the Dodgers, amassing a 13-2 lifetime mark and 2.32 ERA. Kuroda, starting his second major league season, was 2-1 versus the Padres last year.
“It’s an honor to pitch against one of the greatest pitchers in the league, Jake Peavy,” Kuroda said on the Dodger website. “I hope to pitch as well as he does. It’s really hard to try not to feel the pressure. I try to approach each game the same way. There’s pressure in every game I pitch but, obviously, more on Opening Day.”
The Dodgers led the National League in pitching last season with a 3.68 ERA. However, this year, they are without Lowe, ace closer Takashi Saito, reliever Joe Beimel (2.02 ERA), and Chan Ho Park (3.40). San Diego, which topped the NL in pitching in 2007 with a 3.70 ERA, dropped to 10 th last year at 4.41 (the league average was 4.30). The Padres feel injuries to Peavy and all-star starter Chris Young were the main reasons for the team’s pitching woes. Both spent time on the disabled list. “The whole game is about pitching, really,” Padre Manager Bud Black said on his team’s website. “That is critical for us, and critical for most teams, not just the Padres. Every team in baseball, if you can have your top two starting pitchers make anywhere from 65-70 starts, that’s big.” Black, a pitching standout with the Royals, was the Angels’ pitching coach before joining the Padres for 2007.
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS: DODGERS – SS Rafael Furcal, 2B Orlando Hudson, LF Manny Ramirez, RF Andre Ethier, C Russell Martin, 1B James Loney, CF Matt Kemp, 3B Casey Blake, P Hiroki Kuroda.
SAN DIEGO: CF Jody Gerut, 2B David Eckstein, RF Brian Giles, 1B Adrian Gonzalez, 3B Kevin Kouzmanoff, LF Chase Headley, C Nick Hundley, SS Luis Rodriguez P Jake Peavy.
Dodger Chatter: This is the sixth season opener between the Dodgers and Padres and only the second in San Diego. The Padres have won three, including the first, 4-2, in 1973 at San Diego Stadium. Clay Kirby beat Don Sutton. Back then, it was the likes of CF Willie Davis, SS Bill Russell, LF Manny Mota, and 1B Bill Buckner against LF Leron Lee, the game’s star, 1B Nate Colbert, and SS Enzo Hernandez. The other years and scores were: 1974: Dodgers, 8-0, Sutton over Bill Greif. 1979: Padres, 4-3, Gaylord Perry over Lance Rautzhan, in relief of Burt Hooton. 1990: Dodgers, 4-2, John Wetteland, in relief of Oral Hershiser over Bruce Hurst. 2004: Padres, 8-2, Brian Lawrence over Hideo Nomo.
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