Sydney loves a winner.
Painted as the spoiled bad guys at the start of the week, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the city’s hearts with an emphatic two-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the opening series of the Major League Baseball season.
The World Series favourites flexed their muscle with a 7-5 win over the gallant Diamondbacks on Sunday at the SCG, and had 38,079 fans jumping on their bandwagon.
They cheered warmly when the Diamondbacks finally got on the board in the eighth, and were on their feet when slugger Mark Trumbo provided a glimmer of hope with a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth.
But it was too little too late. The people had chosen.
Earlier, when the SCG ground announcer asked fans which team they were rooting for: the roaring reception for the megastars worth $240 million drowned out the polite claps for the small-town battlers from the Arizona desert.
It was quite the 180, given Sydney’s first impression of the Dodgers was pitcher Zach Greinke declaring he had “zero interest” in coming Down Under.
LA as a team feared they had the most to lose by the MLB’s venture 15,000km around the world and made it clear from the outset that this trip was all about business.
Spreading the baseball gospel was somebody else’s business.
But by playing like champions on Saturday and Sunday, the Dodgers satisfied all requirements.
Concerns remain that the taxing travel might catch up with them at the end of a 162-game season.
But there will be more backslapping than stone-kicking for the Dodgers on their chartered flight home to Hollywood on Sunday.
With the sun shining brightly at the SCG, Australian baseball greats Craig Shipley, Dave Nilsson and Graeme Lloyd were honoured pre-game for their contributions abroad to the country’s rich sporting tapestry.
When it was play ball time, the Dodgers exploded out of the gates.
Cuban escapee Yasiel Puig smashed one straight up the middle in the first inning, before Andre Either batted him home for a 1-0 lead.
At the top of the third, even the pitcher got in on the action, as Hyun-Jin Ryu got a base hit, before scoring off a Puig RBI (runs batted in).
By the end of the inning, it was 3-0 Dodgers.
Two more runs were scored in the fifth, when Adrian Gonzalez crossed the plate and Ethier got home off a Juan Uribe hit that nearly cleared the fence.
In the sixth, Puig starred again with a line drive that saw Dee Gordon score for 6-0.
And Ryu stood tall on the mound for LA, until Arizona fought back back bravely at the death.