SYDNEY — As they hoped, the Diamondbacks established their international identity this week in Australia. Trouble is, they'll probably be remembered as the friendly mates who kind of looked like rubbish compared to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After Clayton Kershaw shut them down in Game 1, the Diamondbacks and right-hander Trevor Cahill spotted the Dodgers seven runs before eventually losing 7-5 in the second game at Sydney Cricket Ground.
All told, the Diamondbacks flew about 15,000 miles round-trip to play three games – one an exhibition against an Australian national team that included a delivery driver and a cereal factory worker – and lost all of them.
The trip didn't get off to a good start. On the day they left, they learned their No. 1 starter, Patrick Corbin, was likely to require season-ending elbow surgery. Then on Opening Day, the team bus blew a tire and players walked the rest of the way to the park.
Those proved to be bad omens.
For Cahill, the outing felt like a continuation of his rough spring training – only worse. Cahill had a 7.88 ERA in 16 spring training innings, with the lone bright spot being that he had issued only three walks. But he walked four against the Dodgers, who showered Sydney Cricket Ground with line drives in Cahill's four-plus innings.
The Dodgers got a run on two hits and a walk in the first inning and added two more in the third. The damage might have been worse had the Dodgers not run into an out on the bases in each inning.
In the first, Andre Ethier lined a hit into the right-center field gap to score Yasiel Puig, but Ethier was cut down at second by center fielder A.J. Pollock. The Dodgers made it 3-0 in the third on an RBI single by Puig, who was out in a rundown between first and second, and a sac fly by Adrian Gonzalez.
The Dodgers made it 7-0 before the Diamondbacks started clawing their way back, but they had dug themselves too deep a hole.
Dodgers lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu held them to just two hits and a walk in his five scoreless innings, and the Diamondbacks didn't get on the board until the eighth inning, when Mark Trumbo shot an RBI single into right field. Then in the ninth, the Diamondbacks got a two-run single from Martin Prado and a two-run home run from Trumbo, who launched a pitch from Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen out to left field.
But Jansen followed by striking out Gerardo Parra to send the Diamondbacks home with two losses.
From Major League Baseball's perspective, the trip felt like a success, at least based on the size of the crowds for both games – near sellouts – and the atmosphere at Sydney Cricket Ground. MLB is hoping these sort of showcase events increase the sport's worldwide popularity.
"The growth (in the sport) in the next decade or so is going to be international," commissioner Bud Selig said. "That's why trips like this are so important."
Earlier on Saturday, the Diamondbacks’ Paul Goldschmidt crushed the first pitch he saw in the third inning, and Dodgers lefty Kershaw spun to look toward center field.
Kershaw wore the look of a pitcher worried he might have given up a home run. Instead, the ball came to an innocuous rest in center fielder Andre Ethier’s glove.
No one knew quite what to expect on Saturday at Sydney Cricket Ground, the international destination baseball chose for its season opener. But the atmosphere was lively, the energy high and the baseball interesting, in large part because of the conditions and dimensions of this 166-year-old converted park.
Balls that looked like homers stayed in the park and vice versa, and the Los Angeles Dodgers and Kershaw beat Arizona 3-1 in front of 38,266 curious fans.
No one was complaining, but the park, with its gushing winds and short porches, provided an interesting wrinkle to baseball’s first regular season game ever played in Australia.
“With the way the wind was blowing, I thought it would have been a lot more entertaining for everybody and the score would have been completely different,” D-backs infielder Eric Chavez said. “There were some balls that were hit hard and they didn’t go out.”
The opposite occurred, too, and on both ends of the stick was Scott Van Slyke, an unexpected offensive hero for the star-studded Dodgers. With a runner on in the second, Van Slyke destroyed a curveball from Wade Miley, launching a moonshot into left field that looked like an easy home run.
Miley thought it was gone. Van Slyke thought it was gone, high-fiving L.A. first base coach Davey Lopes on his way around the bases. And Arizona left fielder Trumbo thought it was gone.
They were all wrong, and, unfortunately for Trumbo, he wound up looking the silliest. He raced back and scaled the wall, preparing to rob a home run, but the ball hit only halfway up the fence. The wind, which had the flags flapping atop the stadium’s storied Members Pavilion, knocked it down.
“I served as the guinea pig out there for how the conditions were playing,” Trumbo said later.
Van Slyke wound up at second with a double, and two batters later the Dodgers were on the board, courtesy of an RBI groundout by Ethier.
Then in the fourth, Van Slyke struck again, sending a high and outside fastball from Miley down the right field line. Unlike his first ball, this one didn’t look gone. But this one actually left the park.
“I actually thought the first one was a homer and the second wasn’t,” Miley said, “and it flip-flopped on me.”
There were other balls with outcomes that didn’t seem to fit, thanks to the wind. Miguel Montero laced a ball into left field that was caught by Van Slyke. The Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig mashed a ball to center field that somehow stayed in the park.
Kershaw did the rest, once again dominating on Opening Day, although this outing — in which he gave up one run in 6º innings — goes down as his worst on Opening Day. In his three previous Opening Day assignments, Kershaw had a combined 19 scoreless innings.
Miley, who came out for a pinch hitter in the fifth, gave up three runs and three hits, striking out eight with two walks.