Clayton Kershaw launched his first career home run to break a scoreless tie in the eighth inning, then finished off a four-hitter Monday that led the Los Angeles Dodgers over the San Francisco Giants 4-0 on opening day.
Kershaw struck out seven, walked none and retired World Series MVP Pablo Sandoval on a grounder to end it. The former Cy Young winner began the day as a career .146 batter with only one extra-base hit in 261 at-bats. But he sent the first pitch from George Kontos (0-1) over the center-field wall, triggering a standing ovation and prolonged roar from the sellout crowd of 53,000. After high-fiving his teammates, Kershaw tipped his cap from the dugout. Kershaw became the first pitcher in the majors to homer on opening day since Joe Magrane of St. Louis in 1988, and the first Dodgers pitcher to do it since Don Drysdale in 1965.
''I never knew what that felt like,'' Kershaw said.
Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, wearing his vintage No. 32 jersey, threw out the ceremonial first ball. In 1964, Koufax pitched the first opening-day shutout at Dodger Stadium. Then, another Dodgers lefty with a great curveball dominated. Kershaw pitched his sixth career shutout, tossing 94 pitches in his third consecutive opening day start. He has led the majors in ERA each of the last two seasons, and there is speculation he will soon be rewarded with a long-term contract worth about $200 million.
''Opening day was everything I could hope for,'' he said. ''Hopefully we got 161 more of those coming up.''
Matt Cain made his first career opening day start for the Giants. He allowed four hits in six scoreless innings, struck out eight and walked one. The right-hander threw 93 pitches, including 32 in the first inning alone.
While Kershaw (1-0) was resting after his home run, the Dodgers broke it open against the defending champions. Carl Crawford followed with a double and later scored on a wild pitch by Santiago Casilla for a 2-0 lead. The Dodgers got their last two runs on RBI groundouts by Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis.
Dodgers co-owner Magic Johnson was the mound before the game when manager Don Mattingly came out and signaled for a reliever. In came Koufax to throw the first ball to former Dodgers ace Orel Hershiser. A few minutes later, the crowd looked toward Vin Scully's booth, where he began his 64th season, and the revered broadcaster pronounced: ''It's time for Dodger baseball.''
NOTES: Ethier made his franchise record sixth consecutive opening day start in right field for the Dodgers. ... Kershaw is the first Dodgers pitcher to start the season opener three years in a row since Derek Lowe (2005-07). ... Only four players on the Giants' 25-man roster weren't on the team last season. ... The Dodgers faced the defending World Series champions on opening day for just the third time in franchise history. In 2011, they played the Giants, and in 1922, when the club was known as the Brooklyn Robins, they faced the New York Giants.