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Ethier puts icing on the cake in home opener

Ethier puts icing on the cake in home opener

Ethier puts icing on the cake in home opener
LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw was dealing, the house was packed and there was that feel-good buzz in the air, along with game-winning solo home run from birthday boy Andre Ethier in the eighth inning.

So even without Vin Scully - sidelined by a cold and missing a home opener for the first time since 1977 - the Dodgers' 2-1 win over the Pirates on Tuesday was a fitting way to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Dodger Stadium.

With a new ownership group scheduled to take over at the end of the month, the positive vibe is even more than what a 4-1 start generates.

"Just looking up and seeing the stadium filled gave me goose bumps," said Ethier, who turned 30. "Me and Matty [Kemp] looked at each other one of the innings and asked the last time was saw the stadium filled like that. I guess it shows if they give us the support, we won't disappoint."

Ethier is in early salary-drive mode, eligible for free agency on a team that is about to be purchased for $2.15 billion. So far, Ethier's camp hasn't been approached about an extension, although with a thin market of hitters next winter it figures to be a top priority when new president Stan Kasten takes over April 30.

Would Kershaw advise Kasten, Guggenheim, Magic Johnson & Co. to lock up the right fielder?

"He speaks for himself," said Kershaw, who allowed one run in seven innings with seven strikeouts and no walks. "He's one of the best outfielders in the game. Who wouldn't want a guy like that? 'Dre came up huge. That's him. He's clutch."

Kemp, who drove in the other run, is tied with Ethier for the team lead with nine RBIs and has tied a franchise record with RBIs in nine consecutive games dating to last year. Kemp was asked if the imminent arrival of Magic Johnson has inspired the club.

"Magic is not going to play baseball games for us," he said. "He's one of the owners. We've got to take care of business."

Kemp did agree with Kershaw on the importance of keeping Ethier.

"I definitely want him here for years to come," said Kemp, who signed an eight-year, $160 million deal over the winter.

Robbed of his power most of last season with a knee injury that required surgery, Ethier went on an extra-base-hit rampage during Spring Training and hasn't let up now with five in five games. He took Jason Grilli deep after Mark Ellis and Kemp preceded him with strikeouts.

"I just told him to pick me up, and he did," said Kemp.

"I'm not going to beat myself up, because I know I threw the ball outstanding today," Grilli said. "I made one bad pitch -- not a terrible pitch. It got more of the plate than I wanted it to. One inch down, it changes everything."

When Ethier returned to his position for the ninth, he was greeted by a fan chorus of Happy Birthday singing.

"Once they put it up on the big screen, they all started singing," he said. "Having 56,000 fans celebrate your birthday, it's a great way to celebrate. I've got a great right-field corner."

The win went to reliever Kenley Jansen, the save to Javy Guerra (his third), with a big no-decision for Kershaw, who returned from an Opening Day outing cut short after three innings because of the flu.

"Today was the first day I felt normal," said Kershaw. "I got out of the first inning and Opening Day jitters and then got out of the second inning with a guy on third. But my stuff got worse as the game went on, which comes from only throwing three innings last time and not getting my pitch count up. I hope next Sunday I'll be 100 percent."

The Dodgers scored a run in honor of 1962 MVP Maury Wills in the first inning. Dee Gordon, the modern-day Wills as a shortstop and leadoff hitter, lined a single after fouling a bunt. He stole second, was moved to third when Mark Ellis gave himself up with a grounder to second and scored on Kemp's grounder to shortstop.

The second inning opened with Kemp losing Casey McGehee's long fly to center in the sun for a triple, but Kershaw stranded him by fanning Matt Hague and Neil Walker, then getting former battery mate Rod Barajas on a lineout to left.

Pittsburgh tied the game in the seventh. Alex Presley reached on an infield single and Andrew McCutchen singled him to second. McGehee flied to left, but instead of throwing to second base and keeping the double play intact, Juan Rivera threw late to third base trying for Presley and McCutchen moved up to second.

Hague then hit what could have been an inning-ending double-play, but instead Presley scored the tying run on the groundout.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

{"content":["opening_day" ] }
{"content":["opening_day" ] }