Rollins hits 3-run homer to power Dodgers over Padres 6-3
LOS ANGELES (AP) In 2008, Jimmy Rollins homered on opening day for the Philadelphia Phillies, and they went on to win the World Series. Flash forward seven years, and Rollins hit a tiebreaking three-run homer for the Los Angeles Dodgers in their season opener.
''I'll make sure the guys know that,'' the veteran infielder said from his perch atop a table in the clubhouse after the Dodgers' 6-3 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday.
Standing just 5-foot-7, Rollins went vertical to accommodate a hoard of media after coming up big in the clutch for his new team.
''It was very cool,'' Rollins said. ''You get that first `W' out of the way and get that left column rolling.''
Rollins took a curtain call in the dugout for his eighth-inning drive into the lower right-field seats off Shawn Kelley (0-1). Rollins and Howie Kendrick joined the team in the offseason to improve the Dodgers' infield defense, but their offensive prowess delivered the victory.
Kendrick's RBI double with two outs in the seventh tied it at 3. Rollins went 2 for 4.
''I've seen that too many times when he was in a Phillies uniform. I knew right away it was gone,'' new Padre Matt Kemp said. ''He got a pitch that he wanted and put a good swing on it. He's clutch, man. He's one of those guys who gets big hits when his team needs them.''
Reigning NL MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw struck out nine, but the team with baseball's highest payroll of $270 million trailed twice before Kendrick and Rollins bailed them out.
Kershaw gave up three runs and six hits in six innings. Joel Peralta (1-0) got the victory, and Chris Hatcher earned his first save.
Rollins fouled off some low sliders from Kelley before finding a fastball to his liking.
''He battled,'' said Kendrick, who was acquired in a December trade with the Angels. ''He got that one pitch in the honey hole as we call it. I was so happy that he hit it.''
Kemp went 2 for 4 and drove in all three San Diego runs against his former team, which stunned him with last winter's trade to a division rival. He received a mix of cheers and boos from the sellout crowd of 53,518 - the largest regular-season attendance in baseball since Aug. 30, 2012 - during pregame introductions before being greeted with a standing ovation in his first at-bat, which concluded with an RBI single off Kershaw for a 1-0 lead in the first.
''I like facing the best and he's the best pitcher in baseball, hands-down,'' Kemp said. ''You've got to always respect him and grind against a guy like that, and I'm going to battle no matter what.''
Kemp doubled into the left-field corner with two outs in the fifth, scoring Clint Barmes and Derek Norris, who barely beat out an infield single to third to keep the inning alive. Kemp's clutch swing put the Padres back in front 3-2.
''It was great, just to come back here and get the love that I got,'' Kemp said.
The Dodgers got three straight hits off James Shields in the fourth to take a 2-1 lead. Adrian Gonzalez led off with his first homer of the season. Kendrick followed with a triple that center fielder Wil Myers lost in the sun and then scored on Carl Crawford's double.
Shields allowed two runs and six hits in six innings in his Padres debut, finishing with eight strikeouts and two walks.
Kershaw gave Kemp a few extra seconds to soak in the applause during his former teammate's first at-bat.
''I've got a lot of respect for him and I feel like he has a lot of respect for me,'' Kemp said. ''I think he saw the crowd's reaction and kind of stepped back and let it play out. Then we went at it.''
Shields made just his second career start against the Dodgers and left with the lead in the seventh opening day start of his career. He grew up in nearby Newhall and frequently attended games at the stadium.
''It was pretty surreal for me, being able to pitch here after growing up down the street. But once I got into the bullpen, I was nice and relaxed,'' he said. ''Any time you're facing Kershaw, it's going to be a tough game and a tough battle. You can't make too many mistakes because you know he's not going to make too many mistakes. But for the most part, I felt we did pretty well.''
Padres: RHP Josh Johnson and LHP Cory Luebke were both placed on the 15-day disabled list. They are recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Dodgers: LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) was expected to play catch either Monday or Tuesday.
Padres: RHP Tyson Ross starts in the middle game of the series on Tuesday night. He set career highs in starts (31), innings pitched (195 2-3), strikeouts (195) and ERA (2.81) in his first full year as a starter last season, when he was a first-time All-Star.
Dodgers: RHP Zack Greinke gets his first start of the season. He won a career-high 17 games with a 17-8 record and 2.71 ERA in 32 starts last year. He owns the highest all-time winning percentage by a Dodger starter (minimum 50 starts) at 32-12 (.727).