Los Angeles Dodgers superstar pitcher Clayton Kershaw did what he’s paid $33 million to do on Saturday night when he struck out the Arizona Diamondbacks on the opening day of the Major League Baseball season in Sydney.
A heaving SCG crowd of 38,266 may not have been able to pick his curve ball from his slider – but neither could the Diamondbacks hitters – as the Dodgers scored a business-like 3-1 win.
Dodgers manager Don 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 $240 million squad.
“Teams aren’t going to want to play us.”
Like Test cricket’s most menacing fast bowlers, Kershaw has his own distinct style.
Baseball’s highest-paid player prowls around the mound like a lion circling his prey and then raises his arms – with ball in glove – directly above his head, as if he’s doing yoga.
After an extra pause for dramatic effect, the front leg lurches forward and 150km/h worth of heat hurtles towards the plate.
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 ever on opening day 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 slugger Scott Van Slyke.
The right-handed Van Slyke couldn’t quite clear the left-field fence in the second innings but an Andre Ethier RBI ensured the Dodgers took a 1-0 lead.
Then it was over to Van Slyke again in the third as he launched a two-run homer just inside the right-field foul-pole to put LA up 3-0.
On Sunday afternoon, the two teams back up for the final game of the historic series.
Korean Hyun-Jin Ryu will take over from Kershaw, but nothing changes for the Dodgers.
Not entirely happy about having to break schedule to come to Australia, LA are determined to at least start the long flight home with two wins in the bag.