The Sydney Cricket Ground was retrofitted for baseball's opening day. (Mark Nolan/Getty Images)
While most of North America was fast asleep, the 2014 regular season got underway around 5 AM Eastern, 2 AM Pacific and 8 PM local time at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia. In the first non-exhibition major league game on the continent, the Dodgers prevailed 3-1 over the Diamondbacks behind a strong effort from two-time Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and two big blows from reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke.
Kershaw scattered five hits and one walk across 6 2/3 innings, yielding his only run in the sixth via a Paul Goldschmidt double, a wild pitch and a groundout. By that point, he had been staked to a three-run lead thanks largely to Van Slyke, who started in leftfield in place of Carl Crawford, who had remained stateside in anticipation of the birth of a child. "Stache Van Smash"— a well-earned nickname for a mustachioed reserve who batted .240/.342/.465 in 153 plate appearances last year — collected two of the Dodgers' three hits off of fill-in starter Wade Miley, who was named to replace Patrick Corbin on the news of the latter's elbow injury; both figured in Los Angeles' scoring.
In the second inning, Van Slyke doubled off the makeshift left-centerfield wall on a ball misplayed by Mark Trumbo, who was making his Diamondbacks debut and playing a position where he made just seven starts last year. Trumbo climbed the wall but was nowhere near the ball as it ricocheted; maybe it was the wind, maybe it was the magnetic pull of the South Pole. From MLB.com:
[mlbvideo id="31624627" width="600" height="336" /]
That double sent Adrian Gonzalez to third; two batters later, he would score on an Andre Ethier groundout. Van Slyke's second hit, also included in the above clip, came in his next at-bat in the fourth inning. After Gonzalez struck out but reached on a wild pitch, he sliced a ball down the rightfield line, missing the screen attached to the foul pole by roughly a foot for a two-run homer.
As noted in my preview, the game marked the seventh time in the past 16 years that the major league season opened at a neutral site outside the 50 states and Canada, following Monterrey, Mexico (1999), Tokyo, Japan (2000, 2004, 2008, 2012), and San Juan, Puerto Rico (2001). It was organized to commemorate the 100th anniversary of a January 1914 exhibition between the Giants and White Sox. The official attendance at the hastily converted grounds — a gem of a facility that hosted its first cricket match in 1882 and has two Victorian-era pavilions still standing — was 38,266.
The two teams will play a second game at 1 PM local time on Sunday (10 PM Eastern Saturday), with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Trevor Cahill
squaring off. Cliff Corcoran will recap the series here, with a special report on whether the Dodgers go for a post-series dip
in Sydney Harbor in an attempt to rattle the Dimaondbacks.