Although the traditional hooky holiday that is Opening Day doesn't happen stateside until next week, two NL West rivals played the league's first games that count over the weekend.
On Saturday, the Los Angeles Dodgers swept the MLB Opening Series by twice defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks in front of a crowd 40,000 strong at Sydney Cricket Ground in Australia. The series marked the first regular-season games ever to be played in the Land Down Under.
In Game 1, reigning Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw got the fourth consecutive Opening Day start of his career and held the Dbacks to just one run in 6.2 innings of work as the Dodgers went on to win, 3-1.
"Sometimes you just need the adrenaline of a regular-season game, and I just kind of feel relieved to get this one under my belt," he told reporters after the game. In spring training, Kershaw had gone 0-3 with a 9.20 ERA in four starts. Saturday's win gives him a 3-0 record in Opening Day starts.
Arizona rallied for a total of five runs in the final two innings of Game 2 but ultimately lost the second half of the series, 7-5. Hyun-Jin Ryu helped lay the groundwork for Los Angeles, striking out five and holding the D-Backs to two hits over five innings. Offensively, the Dodgers logged 13 hits, eight of which (including five earned runs) came off losing pitcher Trevor Cahill, who has had a tough spring (7.88 ERA in 16 innings).
"I was getting hit around this spring but I felt like my command was close," Cahill said. "I was able to throw strikes when I had to. Today, I don't know if it was the adrenaline or trying to do too much, be too fine."
Both teams will get back into spring training action over the next week as the other 28 teams get ready for their first official matchups. The Dodgers also have the honor of kicking off the mass festivities when they take on the Padres in San Diego for Opening Night this Sunday. 13 Opening Day games will then take place on Monday.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers organization also recently announced the debut of SportsNet LA, a 24/7 network dedicated to team coverage. According to ESPN, the fact that Time Warner is the only provider to carry SportsNet LA and holds just 32 percent of the LA market meant the Opening Series, which was also broadcast on MLB Network, was blacked out for many locals. MLB commissioner Bud Selig, however, expressed confidence that both sides will work out resulting issues.
"We always like things to be as smooth as possible, but there are always times in life when things don't work out exactly right," Selig said at a press conference before the series. "But I have faith the parties will work it out and I know the parties want to work things out."