Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
SAN DIEGO (CBSLA.com) — It has been a convoluted introduction to the season for the 2014 Los Angeles Dodgers.
Following an opening series down in Australia, a return to the states for a round of exhibition games, and a break in day-two of a three-game series in San Diego, the club needed some manner of regularity to keep their feet on the ground.
Tuesday was not an easy ball game for the Dodgers by any means, and, doubtless, it was not the type of feeling they want to get used to throughout the last three innings.
Yasiel Puig hit his first home run of the season and Juan Uribe was 3-for-4 from the plate as Zack Greinke struck out five in his 2014 debut, and the Dodgers outlasted the San Diego Padres, 3-2.
The ball game had hardly started, and already the Dodger bats were well in motion.
Even more so, the Dodgers had an early opportunity to jump on Ian Kennedy, the fellow who beaned both Yasiel Puig and Zack Greinke near the head.
Following a Carl Crawford single to right, Puig connected on a 2-1 pitch to deep left and sent it into the stands for his first home run of the season — a massive 410-foot shot. The blast gave the Dodgers an early 2-0 lead.
Another bright spot for Dodger fans was Juan Uribe’s bat. Previously batting 0-for-11 against Kennedy, Uribe opened the 2nd inning with a single to left, before hitting one off the wall in right-center field in the 4th.
With Uribe at 2nd, the relay throw seems to dribble past second baseman Jedd Gyorko, creeping slowly into the infield and allowing Uribe to run to third. Uribe was slow to get up, but luckily, it was due to exhaustion from running, rather than any injury.
Uribe would score when Dee Gordon smacked a 2-out, 2-2 fastball up the middle, extending the Dodger lead to three runs.
The returning third baseman, as ever, provided a rekindling spark — not just with his bat, but, believe it or not, with his speed.
After Andre Ethier walked, in the top of the 6th, Uribe hit a dribbler out towards third base. Chase Headly scooped the ball and fired to first, but Uribe, showing some wheels, beat the throw.
It would seem Uribe is more than interested in earning his new contract with Los Angeles.
Seth Smith put the Padres on the board with a solo shot to right field in the bottom of the 4th, cutting the lead to two.
Greinke then found himself in further trouble in the fifth, giving up a leadoff walk to Gyorko, followed by a single to Will Venable. Gyorko tempted an advance to third, but the arm of Yasiel Puig made him think twice on the base.
The inning’s struggles continued when, two batters later, Greinke threw a wild pitch past A.J. Ellis, allowing Gyorko to score from third.
The growing possibility of a repeat of Sunday’s Padre rally was not far from mind by the bottom of the seventh, when Chris Withrow, celebrating his 25th birthday, took over from Paco Rodriguez on the mound.
After retiring Gyorko at the plate, Venable reached first on a fielding error by Withrow, in which Gonzalez snagged a hard grounder up the first-base line, and underhanded a routine toss towards the bag. Withrow reached for the ball, but knocked it away in his attempt, and the tying run reached base.
The damage was avoided by a pair of fly outs to right and center.
Another test presented itself in the 8th inning — the same inning that saw the downfall of the Dodgers on Sunday — when Everth Cabrera singled to center with one out.
Perhaps it was the “Beat L.A.” chants beginning to rise up out of the stands of Petco Park, but J.P. Howell on the mound began paying more attention to Cabrera, and ended up walking Seth Smith to represent the go-ahead run.
Amazingly, Howell continued to pay attention to Cabrera, now in scoring position at second base, before getting Headley to ground into a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning.
Staying true to the theme of the day, more drama kept the Dodgers on their toes in the bottom of the 9th.
With the rock-steady Kenley Jansen entering the game to close, Yonder Alonso led the inning off with a single to right. Following a fly out by Gyorko, Venable moved the tying run all the way over to third, with Ethier unable to gun the runner down.
Some stability was provided when Jansen got Denorfia to swing, and miss, at a fastball that was well out of the strike zone for the second out.
The tension came to a head when Jansen walked the bases loaded on an outside pitch to Yasmani Grandal.
It was all on Nick Hundley.
Back-to-back pinch hitters had doomed the Dodgers on Sunday night, and no chances were taken with the same spot in the lineup on Tuesday.
But, as teams find themselves on the brink of defeat, they discover the only way to dig themselves out.
Kenley Jansen found it by retiring Hundley on strike one, strike two, and the sweet sound of strike three.
The Dodgers will send Dan Haren to the mound to take on Tyson Ross on Wednesday to wrap up their first series on U.S. soil in 2014.
In further notes, new addition and former Angels third baseman Chone Figgins, continued to show solid patience at the plate in his second showing of the season, earning his second walk, which took place in the 7th.