Tonight, MLB brings you the gripping conclusion to the two-part sports television drama … the Battle Down Under.
For one team, its a chance at leaving Australia with a perfect season thus far. For the other, it’s a chance at not leaving Australia empty-handed. After defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 in the season opener, the Los Angeles Dodgers will square off with them for a second and last time at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
The stakes are particularly high for the Diamondbacks, who should really want more than to have made the 13-hour flight to lose two games in a row and start their season stateside in the hole.
On the mound, the Dodgers are giving the nod to an enthusiastic Hyun-jin Ryu. Of his start, he told the Dodgers’ official website “I have high expectations.” What a smack talker! Ryu had a good 2013 overall, but was kind of a mixed bag — he tanked to end the season, going 2-5 in his last seven games after a red-hot start. He recaptured some of that magic by getting it together in the playoffs and going 1-0 with a 3.60 ERA. I’ll be curious to see which Ryu we get tonight, and for the rest of the season.
Trevor Cahill, aka The Dodger Killer, will be throwing for the Diamondbacks. Let’s be honest: he isn’t a great pitcher — Richard Sherman would describe him as “mediocre. At best.” But he is 6-0 against the Dodgers as a starting pitcher. In that sense, he’s coming into this game as a certified ace, which gives the Diamondbacks an actual edge.
Will Dodgers star Yasiel Puig finally get his first hit of the season? Dodgers fans have been waiting for him to light it up since Spring Training began, and his 0-for-5 showing didn’t get anyone excited. Will the resurgence of Scott Van Slyke continue? He was the offensive MVP of last night’s game with a double and a home run, and I’d like to see if he continues his bid to go from relieving Carl Crawford to becoming a legitimate contender for the permanent lineup.
Will Diamondbacks hitters wake up? This is supposed to be a team capable of scoring much more than they showed last night. It’ll be fun to see if the bats come out to play, and skipper Kirk Gibson has stated he expects as much. I’m expecting Mark Trumbo to have a big night and hopefully no left-field blunders like the one he made last night.
Finally, will Ryu live up to our childhood fantasies of any athlete with the name “Ryu” and shout “Hadoken!” as he delivers a pitch?
In short, I think this’ll be a tight game. The fact that Cahill doesn’t lose games to the Dodgers makes me give the slight edge to Arizona. If the Dodgers want to beat Cahill, they need to get more productivity out of star guys like Puig and Hanley Ramirez tonight. Ryu is good when he’s good, but it remains to be seen whether we’ll get Jekyll or Hyde out of him this season.
Prediction: Diamondbacks 5, Dodgers 3