Carl Crawford continues to show that he plans to be a fixture on the Los Angeles Dodgers. After being limited to just 31 games in 2012 and having a poor season in 2011, he is off to a fast start this season.
He sent a message to the San Diego Padres that the Dodgers weren’t going to let them use their late-inning rally the night before give them any momentum in this game.
He led off the game with opposite-field home run to deep left field for a quick 1-0 lead. Padres pitcher Eric Stults didn’t let it rattle him though and retired the next three Dodgers, in order. He got Mark Ellis to hit a hard line drive to shortstop for the first out of the inning and then induced a pair of groundouts to Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez.
Chad Billingsley, in making his first start of the season after bruising his finger during Spring Training, faced the minimum in the bottom of the third. After a leadoff walk to Evereth Cabrera he got Venable to swing and miss for his first strike out and induced Chris Denofria to hit into an inning-ending double play to second base.
Ethier led off the second by grounding out to second base before Luis Cruz singled to shallow right field. A.J. Ellis stepped up to the plate and hit a home run to deep left field, scoring Cruz and extending the Dodgers’ lead to 3-0. Justin Sellers followed that up with a single to center and Chad Billingsley tried his best to advance Sellers with a sacrifice bunt, but was unable to execute and was called out when he bunted a two-strike pitch foul. It should be noted that Billingsley was participating in bunting drills when he injured his finger during Spring Training, which landed him on the disabled list. Stults got Crawford to strike out looking to end the inning.
Billingsley pitched a perfect half of the second inning, striking out Yonder Alonso before getting Jed Gyorko to ground out. He finished off the inning by fanning Alexi Amarista.
Stults matched that effort in the top of the third by pitching a 1-2-3 inning of his own. He got Mark Ellis to ground out to shortstop, struck out Matt Kemp and was able to get Adrian Gonzalez to fly out to center field.
Cameron Maybin led off the bottom of the third by flying out to center field. Nick Hundley hit a bloop single to left field and Stults successfully sacrificed him over to second base. But Cabrera grounded out to second for the final out of the inning.
Ethier hit a lead off single to start off the fourth inning but was forced out at second on a ground ball by Luis Cruz. A.J. Ellis and Justin Sellers each popped up to right field, ending the inning.
In their half of the fourth, Will Venable reached first base on a free pass and Chris Denorfia knocked him in on a double to center field. Alonso walked and then Gyorko grounded into a double play shortstop. Amarista lined out to left field to end the inning.
Billingsley led off the top of the fifth by striking out and Crawford followed that up with hitting a triple to deep left-center field. He scored on a Mark Ellis single to center field, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 4-1. Kemp even decided to contribute in a small way by hitting a single of his own and advancing Ellis to second base. Gonzalez moved both of the runners ahead on a fielder’s choice to give the Dodgers runners on second and third with two outs. Ethier stepped to the plate but grounded out to second base to end the threat.
The bottom of the fifth started with Maybin popping out to right field before Hundley singled to center field. Cody Ransom pinch hit for the pitcher, but popped out to right field. Cabrera hit an infield single to second base, advancing Hundley 90 feet. Venable, coming off a big game the night before stepped up to the plate with another chance at being the hometown hero. Billingsley wouldn’t rattle though and induced a ground out to second base to end the inning.
Padres manager Bud Black brought Anthony Bass in to relieve Stults, who gave up a lead off single to Luis Cruz before striking out A.J. Ellis. Justin Sellers drew a one-out walk and Billingsley sacrificed them both over. Crawford drew a walk to load the bases for a potential two-out rally. But second baseman Mark Ellis couldn’t capitalize on the situation and struck out looking to end the threat.
Billingsley continued to sail through the bottom of the sixth. He got Denorfia to fly out to center to lead off the inning before Alonso hit a bloop single to shallow right field. He got Gyorko to line out to right field and Amarista grounded out to his counterpart to end the inning.
Kemp led off the seventh inning by singling to shallow left-center field and advanced to second on Gonzalez’ ground out to first base. They intentionally walked Ethier to face struggling Cruz, who flied out to shallow right field. A.J. Ellis struck out looking to end the inning, stranding both runners on base.
Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly went to the bullpen to start their half of the seventh inning and called on Ronald Belisario to preserve the game. He got Maybin to fly out to shallow left field and gave up a single to Hundley up the middle. Jesus Guzman batted for Bass but struck out swinging and Belisario wrung up Cabrera to end the inning.
The Padres brought in Brad Brach to face Sellers in the top of the eighth and gave up a lead off single to left-center, but was thrown out at second base trying to stretch it into a double. Skip Schumacher pinch hit for Belisario and struck out swinging and Crawford grounded out to second base to end the inning.
Fireballer set-up man Kenley Jansen came on in the bottom of the eighth and struck out Venable before giving up a bloop single to right field to Denorfia and a single to Alonzo to left field. Jansen got Gyorko to fly out to deep center before giving pinch hitter Mark Kotsay flied out to shallow left to end the inning.
Joe Thatcher came in as a reliever for Brach and proceeded to give up a lead off single to Mark Ellis. Kemp followed that up by flying out to left field for the first out of the inning. Gonzalez singled to right field, advancing Ellis to third base. With runners on the corners, Ethier was plunked to load the bases for Luis Cruz, who has struggled to open the year this year after having a career year last season, popped a foul out to first base for the second out of the inning. The Dodgers’ threat was ended when A.J. Ellis grounded out to third base.
Dodgers closer Brandon League came in in the bottom of the ninth and got Maybin to ground out to shortstop to start the inning. Hundley followed that up with a double to center field. John Baker was called upon to pinch hit for Thatcher but flied out to center field for the second out of the inning. Cabrera singled to right field, giving the Padres runners on the corners with two outs. Venable stepped to the plate and delivered for the Padres with a single to left field, plating Hundley and advancing Cabrera to third base. Denorfria struck out but reached first base safely on a passed ball that allowed Cabrera to score and bring the Padres within a run, 4-3. Alonso flied out to left-center field to end the game and give League his third save of the season.
Crawford, who was a required addition in the trade for Adrian Gonzalez last August, has been having a solid year so far and seems to be happy with a shot at redemption with a new club.
”I just want to play baseball,” said Crawford, ‘That’s all I want to do, man. I’m not trying to prove nothing to me, you, Boston, whoever. I just want to play good baseball this year.”
Crawford had Tommy John surgery two days before the trade and didn’t get to play for the Dodgers last year, causing many fans to question the acquisition in the first place.
After this game, he is 13 for 28 which is good for a .464 batting average. He has had six multiple hit games out of seven games played so far, showing the rest of baseball that he is still a viable threat to lead off any game.
”You never know how it’s going to go. You hope for the best,” Crawford said. ”The last two years the way things were going for me it’s kind of a surprise, but a good surprise. It’s definitely fun. Even if I wouldn’t have had a fast start like I’m having now, everything is just good for me right now.”
Even Don Mattingly acknowledged that he was surprised that Crawford has been so hot to begin the season.
”I’ve seen how good Carl has been in the past and the last two years have been spotty as far as injuries and things like that, but I think we pretty much knew what he could do,” Mattingly said.
Billingsley started the year odd with a 1-0 record after holding San Diego to one run on five hits over six innings. He struck out three and walked a trio of Padres.
”It definitely felt great to be back out there,” said Billingsley, ”C.C., the first at-bat of the game, he gets us a one-run lead and gave me a little cushion early.”
Billingsley ”was sharp with his fastball,” said San Diego’s Yonder Alonso. ”He was controlling the strike zone early in the game. He was throwing to both sides and did a good job of keeping the ball down.”
Every Dodgers regular except Adrian Gonzalez had at least one hit off of Padres starter Stults.