SYDNEY, Australia — The air was warm and slightly humid when Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Wade Miley delivered the first pitch of the season to Yasiel Puig at 8 p.m. Saturday night. It was typical East Coast weather, if not the typical East Coast.
A couple hours earlier, a distant clap of thunder interrupted the Dodgers' batting practice and delayed the game's first pitch by 14 minutes. The announced crowd of 38,266 at Sydney Cricket Ground sat through a brief autumn shower, then was treated to a very typical game of baseball.
For the Dodgers, it was a Fall Classic.
BOX SCORE: Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1
Clayton Kershaw was dominant. Scott Van Slyke had the hottest bat on the continent. The dream of a 162-0 season was still alive and well while most of the Pacific time zone slept through a 3-1 Dodgers victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
“It's always good to get results,” said Kershaw, who allowed a total of 15 runs in four spring training starts and only one on Saturday. “This one counted finally, so I'm thankful that I wasn't giving up any runs and got spring training over with.
“Obviously spring training I try not to give up runs either, but sometimes I need the adrenaline of a regular-season game. I feel relieved to get this under my belt.”
The 160-year-old SCG was a gracious host. Its peculiar quirks provided a picturesque Opening Day backdrop: A massive digital video board interrupting the stands in foul territory on the third-base side of the park; on the opposite side, a spired 19th-century grandstand with a green roof and a clock tower.
More relevant to the game, the dimensions of the makeshift outfield were the difference between a one-run game and a three-run lead for Kershaw — practically a plush feathered cushion for the reigning National League Cy Young award winner.
With the Dodgers leading 1-0 in the fourth inning and Adrian Gonzalez on first base, Van Slyke curled a low line drive inside the right-field foul pole. The ball had a slim margin for error, less than 10 feet from sailing foul or clanging off the temporary fence for a likely double. Instead it landed in the teal plastic seats just behind the 328-foot marker down the line to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.
“I thought it was either going to be foul or caught,” Van Slyke said. “I didn't think it had a chance to go out.”
VIDEO: Van Slyke homer
Van Slyke nearly gave the outfield denizens their first souvenir in the second inning.
Gonzalez, the Dodgers' cleanup hitter, walked to lead off the inning. Van Slyke appeared to get all of the third pitch he saw from Miley, clubbing the ball high into the thick, swirling air to left field. A strong headwind knocked down the ball, which still managed to reach the wall — several feet away from leaping left fielder Mark Trumbo.
“I gave Davey (Lopes, the Dodgers' first-base coach) a high-five and looked up and the ball was coming into play,” Van Slyke said.
“I think we all did” think it was a home run, Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “I think everybody in the stadium did, Mark Trumbo obviously did. (Diamondbacks catcher) Miguel Montero thought that ball was going to be 100 feet past the wall.”
Gonzalez went from first to third as Van Slyke settled for a double. After Juan Uribe struck out, Andre Ethier pulled a ground ball to the left of Diamondbacks second baseman Aaron Hill. Hill's only play was to first base, and Gonzalez scored on the RBI groundout.
That was the entirety of the Dodgers' offense against the left-hander Miley, who replaced injured teammate Patrick Corbin last week. Miley allowed only three hits in five innings — the double and home run by Van Slyke, and a single by Justin Turner in the fifth inning.
Kershaw was a bit better in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits, one run, walked one and struck out seven batters.
Making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Kershaw's only critical mistake was a double by Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the sixth inning. Goldschmidt went to third base on Kershaw's only wild pitch of the evening, a slider in the dirt, then scored on a groundout to second base by Trumbo.
The Diamondbacks couldn't take advantage of their only other real threat in the first inning. They had runners on first and second with one out against Kershaw, but consecutive groundouts by Martin Prado and Trumbo ended the inning.
“I threw my slider quite a bit tonight. A.J. does a great job back there. The only time I shook him off tonight I gave up a hit” — a single by Montero in the fourth inning, Kershaw said — “so I stopped doing that.”
Chris Perez retired the final batter of the seventh inning in his Dodgers debut. Brian Wilson pitched a perfect eighth inning, striking out two batters, and Kenley Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth inning for the save — a perfectly scripted finish for the Dodgers' $30 million bullpen.
The two teams have less than 24 hours before returning here for a rematch. Hyun-Jin Ryu will face Arizona right-hander Trevor Cahill at 1 p.m. local time Sunday — 7 p.m. Pacific Time tonight — before flying back to North America after the game.