D-backs get edged out in opener Down Under

Miley strikes out eight, but Kershaw keeps Arizona at bay in Australia

March 22nd, 2014

SYDNEY -- When facing Clayton Kershaw, there is little margin for error.

You need to take advantage of scoring opportunities when you get them and not give him any extra runs.

The D-backs accomplished neither of those things, and it cost them in a 3-1 loss to the Dodgers in the first game of the 2014 season on Saturday at Sydney Cricket Ground. It was the earliest opener in Major League history.

"Not exactly an Opening Day," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said of how the game felt. "But it was an electric atmosphere. Great crowd tonight. They did a great job with the field. The rain held off and I thought it was a very nice, great event."

Rain delayed the start of the game by 14 minutes, but when it got underway, the crowd of 38,266, which roared with delight at every foul ball hit into the stands, was treated to a tight affair between the National League West rivals that turned on a few key moments.

Things started off on the wrong note for the D-backs when they wasted a scoring opportunity in the first inning.

With one out in the first, Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt collected back-to-back singles, and it seemed Arizona might have a big inning in the works. The single extended Goldschmidt's hitting streak to 20 games dating back to last season.

Kershaw, though, got Martin Prado to tap out and Mark Trumbo to ground out to end the threat.

"The first inning of the first game, it felt good to get out of that and get the nerves behind you," said Kershaw.

In the top of the second, D-backs starter Wade Miley walked Adrian Gonzalez on four pitches to start the inning.

"I just zoned out a little bit," Miley said. "I don't know why."

The mental lapse would prove costly, as Scott Van Slyke followed by crushing a ball to left field that everyone on both teams thought was going to be a home run. Trumbo began to climb the wall in an attempt to catch the ball. The problem for Trumbo was that the stiff wind kept the ball in the park, and it hit off the wall a few feet to his right for a double.

"When I hit it, I thought it was gone," Van Slyke said. "I gave Davey [Lopes, first-base coach] a high-five, then looked out and saw the ball coming back in."

Gonzalez advanced to third on the play and then scored on a groundout to give the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.

It was a similar recipe for the Dodgers in the fourth.

With one out in the frame, Miley got Gonzalez to swing through a strike-three breaking ball, but it got past catcher Miguel Montero. There is a tremendous amount of foul ground at the stadium, and it came into play as the ball rolled all the way to the backstop and allowed even the slow-footed Gonzalez to reach first.

"It doesn't matter how big the foul territory is, I've got to block that ball," Montero said. "It hit me in a little bit of a weird spot, but still, I've got to block that ball."

That brought Van Slyke to the plate, Miley left an elevated fastball out over the plate on a 1-1 pitch and Van Slyke lifted it the opposite way to right. The ball narrowly cleared the wall, landing just inside the foul pole for a 3-0 Dodgers lead.

"Threw two pitches to him, missed my spot both times and he made me pay," Miley said. "I actually thought the first one was a homer and the second wasn't, and it flip flopped on me."

Once again Van Slyke misjudged his hit.

"I thought it would be foul or caught," said Van Slyke. "I didn't think there was a chance it would go out."

The D-backs, who were shut out by Team Australia on Friday night, were finally able to get to Kershaw in the sixth when Goldschmidt led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch and scored on Trumbo's grounder to second.

That, however, would be all they could muster.

"It was pretty typical," Trumbo said of Kershaw. "He had his offspeed stuff working real nice. Obviously, he has a good fastball to compliment it, but I thought he threw his breaking stuff well, a lot of strike-to-ball type pitches. We chased a fair bit, but give credit to his stuff."

The D-backs will try to bounce back quickly, with a day game set for Sunday here (7 p.m. MST Saturday) before they board their chartered 747 for the 14-hour flight back to Phoenix.

"Offensively, I think we're a much better club than we've shown while we've been here," Gibson said. "We battled through the game. I thought our pitching was pretty good. Theirs was good. We'll have to come back and get them tomorrow."