Clayton Kershaw, Scott Van Slyke lead Dodgers past Diamondbacks in opener

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Clayton Kershaw tossed 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball and Scott Van Slyke doubled and homered as the Dodgers topped the Diamondbacks 3-1 in Saturday’s opener in Australia.

The game, delayed slightly at the onset by some early evening rain, opened with Wade Miley striking out Yasiel Puig on three pitches.

The Dodgers struck first in the second, when Van Slyke had what looked to be a two-run homer to left knocked down by the wind. Fortunately, Mark Trumbo, a natural first baseman, never realized it until it was too late, and what should have been a catchable ball dropped for a double, advancing Adrian Gonzalez to third. Gonzalez then scored on an Andre Ethier groundout.

Van Slyke ended up getting his two-run homer two innings later on a fly down the right-field line. That ball wasn’t struck nearly as well as the first, but this time he was aided by the wind.

Miley finished up his outing allowing three runs in five innings. Kershaw was stronger, striking out seven and walking just one after a poor spring that saw him post a 9.20 ERA in four starts.

The Diamondbacks did make things a little easier on Kershaw than they needed to. Twice they used pinch-hitters in the pitcher’s spot against him. Lefty Didi Gregorius got the call in the fifth inning with one on and none out. Fellow lefty Eric Chavez was the choice in the seventh with one on and one out. Both struck out in pretty hideous fashion, as one might expect. Even though they were allowed to take 28 players to Australia, the Diamondbacks couldn’t come up with a legitimate righty pinch-hitter. They actually did have one, in the form of Matt Tuiasosopo, but they placed him on waivers after arriving and he was subsequently claimed by the Blue Jays.

If there was any bad news for the Dodgers, it’s that Puig looked well off in his first four at-bats, striking out three times and grounding out weakly back to the mound. He finally made some good contact off J.J. Putz in the ninth, hitting a ball to deep center that the wind knocked down. It might have been a homer on another day, though it left him 0-for-5 tonight.

The Dodgers and Diamondbacks will now get about 14 hours off before playing the finale of their two-game series, with Hyun-Jin Ryu and Trevor Cahill slated to start the day game in Australia.

Evan Longoria: ‘I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base’

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The Rays were busy over the weekend, trading starter Jake Odorizzi to the Twins, designating All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, and then picking up C.J. Cron in a deal with the Angels. The Rays saved about $4 million — Odorizzi’s $6.3 million less Cron’s $2.3 million salary — and picked up a prospect. They’re still on the hook for Dickerson’s $5.95 million salary until they can find a trade partner, which seems likely.

Those are some head-scratching moves if you’re a Rays fan or a member of the Rays. Dickerson hit .282/.325/.490 with 27 home runs, 62 RBI, and 84 runs scored in 629 plate appearances last season, part of which resulted in his first trip to the All-Star Game. Designating him for assignment is strictly a financial move, assuming he can be traded. The Rays are currently operating with a payroll below $70 million. This comes just a week and a half after Rays ownership proposed the public footing most of the bill for the club’s new stadium. And the Rays had traded third baseman Evan Longoria — then the face of the franchise — to the Giants earlier this offseason.

Longoria expressed sympathy for Rays fans for having to put up with this. Via Andrew Baggarly, Longoria said of the curious Dickerson move, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base. … I’m not going to take too many shots but it’s pretty obvious that guy is a valuable player and didn’t deserve to be DFAd. Corey was our best player last year.”

Longoria isn’t quite on the money there. By WAR, Dickerson ranked fifth among position players on the team, according to Baseball Reference. FanGraphs is also in agreement. Still, it’s indisputable that Dickerson, who turns 29 years old this May, more than pulled his weight. The Rays do not have a surfeit of starting outfielders, so it wasn’t like they were making room for other capable players. Mallex Smith, who put up a .684 OPS in 282 PA last year, is slated to start in left field at the moment. Designating Dickerson for assignment, as well as trading Longoria and Odorizzi, were simply cost-cutting decisions.

The Rays’ M.O. has been part of the problem leading to the current stagnant free agent market (sans Eric Hosmer‘s eight-year deal on Saturday). Teams like the Rays, Phillies, Reds, and Tigers have been explicitly putting out non-competitive teams in order to facilitate a rebuilding process. Longoria is right to express sympathy for Rays fans, who see their favorite team worsening a roster that went 80-82 last year. The Rays haven’t finished at .500 or above since 2013 and doesn’t figure to halt the streak this year.