Kershaw stars in Dodgers opening win over D-backs
Clayton Kershaw of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches at the start of the Major League Baseball (MLB) opening season game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks at the Sydney Cricket Ground in Sydney on March 22, 2014 - by Saeed Khan
Kershaw, the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner as top pitcher, made 102 pitches and allowed one run on five hits over 6 2/3 innings to spearhead the Dodgers to a businesslike victory.
Kershaw struck out seven with a walk and received a standing ovation from the 38,266-strong Sydney crowd when he was pulled out of the game because of his pitch count.
Left fielder Scott Van Slyke homered in the fourth inning after Adrian Gonzalez was batted in by Andre Ethier in the second inning to put the Dodgers in charge.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Kershaw made the difference.
"Clayton was really good for us tonight, as always. Kinda doing his thing," he said.
"You have to stay with us for a while to understand the importance of Clayton because every five days you get a good outing.
"He's a guy that's always ready but we've got a few more of those too."
Mattingly warned teams back in the United States that after falling one step short of last year's World Series, the Dodgers are going to take some stopping.
"Without having to jump out there and say it, we're as good as anybody," Mattingly said of his expensively assembled squad.
"Teams aren't going to want to play us."
The Dodgers boast the biggest payroll in the MLB at $220 million, which is almost two-and-a-half times more than the Phoenix-based Diamondbacks.
Seventy-three of the 102 pitches Kershaw threw before being removed at the bottom of the seventh innings were strikes, although it was the first time on opening day of the MLB season that Kershaw gave up a run.
That came courtesy of a Mark Trumbo ground-out RBI in the bottom of the sixth that saw Diamondbacks star Paul Goldschmidt score.
But the damage was already done - chiefly off the bat of Dodgers Van Slyke.
Van Slyke launched a two-run homer just inside the right-field foul-pole in the fourth inning to put LA up 3-0.
There was no sign of the bad blood between the two NL teams, who generated headlines last year with a bench-clearing brawl at Dodger Stadium that led to eight members of the two clubs, including five Dodgers, receiving suspensions.
The iconic Sydney Cricket Ground, where Australia wrapped up a 5-0 Ashes cricket series win over England last January, was hosting its first baseball match since the Chicago White Sox played a 1914 exhibition there.
The two teams will back up for the second game of the Australian series at the SCG on Sunday.
Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu will take over from Kershaw.
Australia's first-ever tilt at hosting a major league double-header comes after showcase matches in Japan in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012, as well as openers in Mexico and Puerto Rico.