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The Strike Zone

L.A. dodges late Arizona rally to sweep successful Australia series

Yasiel Puig The Dodgers pulled out their second win in Australia despite some sloppy moments. (Michelle O'Connor/AP)

The Dodgers survived a four-run rally in ninth inning of Sunday afternoon's game at the Sydney Cricket Ground to complete a sweep of their two-game, season-opening set against the Diamondbacks in Australia with a 7-5 win. That score suggests the game was much closer than it actually was (the Dodgers led 7-0 heading into the bottom of the eighth) but it is properly suggestive of the contest's sloppiness.

After a crisp season opener Saturday night, a 3-1 Dodgers win behind 6 2/3 strong innings from defending National League Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw and a pair of big hits from left fielder Scott Van Slyke (filling in for Carl Crawford, who is on paternity leave and did not make the trip to Australia), Sunday afternoon's game got off to a similar start. Dodgers starter Hyun-jin Ryu allowed just two singles and a walk through five innings while L.A. chipped away at Arizona righty Trevor Cahill, knocking him out before he had recorded an out in the fifth inning.

The sloppiness started with Cahill, who walked four and hit a batter before getting the hook, but it soon infected both teams. By the time Gerrardo Parra struck out to end the four-hour game, 14 pitchers had combined to issue 16 walks, hit two batters, uncork two wild pitches (though one was negated by an out on the bases) and surrender 12 runs while the position players combined for four errors (with an unofficial fifth that went down as a fielder's choice) and ran into three unnecessary outs on the bases.

JAFFE: Dodgers drive past D-Backs in Australian opener

Before you ask, yes, Yasiel Puig ran into two of those outs. After going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts in the opener, the Dodgers' sophomore right fielder opened the second game with singles in his first two at-bats, scoring after the first and driving in a run with the second, but in the latter instance he ran right into a pickle between first and second base for the first out of the inning. After being hit in the left tricep by Cahill in his third at-bat, Puig doubled home a run in the sixth, but hesitated on a subsequent wild pitch by lefty Joe Thatcher and was thrown out by a considerable distance at third base.

Puig's double in the top of the fifth made the score 5-0, and it was around that time that this regular-season game, which saw the Dodgers wearing their home uniforms on the road, began to look more like a spring training contest. The play had already been sloppy, but with Josh Collmenter unable to keep the game close after replacing Cahill in the fifth with two on and no outs and the Dodgers up a mere 3-0, both managers began to empty their bullpens. It was with 23-year-old rookie Jose Dominguez on the mound in the bottom of the ninth that the Diamondbacks, who had totaled just two runs in their first 26 innings down under against the Dodgers and Team Australia, finally broke through.

The big blow in the inning, however, was a two-run home run by Mark Trumbo off Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Trumbo's shot, which barely cleared the left-field wall, was just the second home run hit in the two game series and, in its own way, a reminder of how big the temporary ballfield played, likely due to prevailing winds, sea-level altitude, and the heavy ocean air (think San Diego and San Francisco). That home run should give the Diamondbacks a bit of a lift on their way back to Arizona, though its hard to put too much of a positive spin on the fact that they surrendered two home games and will effectively start a 160-game season next week two games behind the defending division champions.

Overall, Major League Baseball's trip to Australia was a success. The Cricket Ground was beautiful and historic, none of the quirks of the field (among them a hard infield and copious foul territory) had a major impact on the games, the crowds were large and polite, no one got hurt, and no one lost their temper. Odd as it was to have two regular season games happen a week before the end of spring training at awkward hours of the night, that taste of games that count did a good job of whetting an already significant appetite for the regular season. We'll have to wait another week for that, however. Things kick off in the northern hemisphere Sunday night with the Dodgers, again, on the road in San Diego, where we'll most likely see Kershaw, who was effectively granted an extra start this season by the week break between opening days on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean, take on the Padres' Andrew Cashner.

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