Going into the opening series of 2016 expectations for the early season were tempered following a spring training riddled with injuries to key players. As the Dodgers leave San Diego to travel into hostile territory in the bay, the team is instead riding high after making history by shutting out the Padres for 27 consecutive innings, scoring 25 runs over the three-game series. The Dodgers became just the second team in 100 years to start their season with three consecutive shutouts, joining the 1963 St. Louis Cardinals, and gave the 2016 Padres the dubious distinction of being the first team in Major League history to fail to score in each of its first three games.
The storyline could not have gone better for the Dodgers, who got a typical performance from Kershaw in game one, allowing just one hit over 7 scoreless innings. Scott Kazmir followed suit with an extremely encouraging (there had been concerns about diminished velocity in spring training) and near-perfect 6-inning, one-hit effort in game 2. And if Kenta Maeda’s 5 hits allowed over 6 scoreless innings seems pedestrian by comparison, he made up for it by hitting the first home run of the Dodgers’ young season in his second Major League at bat.
Having seemingly taken forever to hit their first home run (23 runs scored without a 4-bagger), Yasiel Puig decided to join in the fun with the first of his season. He had tripled in each of the first two games of the series and went 6 for 10 overall with 5 batted balls clocked at 106 mph or higher, boding extremely well for the early season returns on his well-documented and by all accounts very successful offseason preparations.
Also encouraging is the bullpen’s ability to keep the scoreless streak alive throughout the series; bullpen woes have of course been a plague on the Dodgers in recent seasons. Yimi Garcia, J.P. Howell, Pedro Baez, new addition Joe Blanton, and closer Kenley Jansen all appeared to be in mid-season form in their appearances during the series.
Traveling to San Francisco for their first face-off with an improved and dangerous Giants club will provide a great test to the Dodgers, who will remain without catcher Yasmani Grandal (forearm), Howie Kendrick (calf), and Andre Ethier (broken fibula). Ross Stripling figures to be the game two starter, his first big league appearance having been necessitated by a back injury to Brett Anderson and the continued recoveries of Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder) and Brandon McCarthy (Tommy John surgery). Justin Turner (micro fracture knee surgery) and Carl Crawford figure to get a rest early in the series, which will give fresh faces Charlie Culberson and Trayce Thompson a bit of a baptism by fire in San Francisco.
Throughout the series new skipper Dave Roberts appeared to have developed great rapport early in his inaugural season as the new Dodgers manager with ample smiles, high fives, and fist bumps circulating the dugout. The young season could not have offered more promise to fans hoping for a bit of magic to make Vin Scully’s swan song all the more bittersweet.
Gerry Schwartzmeyer is a featured author at Around the Horn Talk, an official affiliate of MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @pgeradactyl.