However, after being stunned by the five-run third inning, they fought back to close to 6-4 before a three-run eighth inning KO'ed their chances.
The stoic McDonald stayed in the dugout for the rest of the game instead of showering as most starters do when knocked out, and was available for the inevitable questions by the media after the loss.
Manager Joe Torre would not say if the youngster would take his next turn in the rotation, but was not concerned over his implosion. "For certain he's going to be out there pitching, whether it's in the rotation or out of the bullpen," Torre said. "He certainly didn't do any damage to himself with this start."
But with Hiroki Kuroda sidelined by a muscle pull in his side, the odds are McDonald will get another shot, probably starting against the Giants on Thursday.
He sailed through the first six Arizona batters with ease, striking out a pair while using an excellent curve and a deceptive changeup.
Then the two pitches not only left him, they were consistently out of the strike zone in the third inning after he allowed a leadoff home run to Chris Young.
He retired the next batter, walked the pitcher, walked another two and hit a batter before Connor Jackson lined a two-run shot to right field.
Ramon Troncoso was hurried into the game and allowed a sixth run on a sac fly.
The Dodgers had scored in the second inning to take a 1-0 lead. James Loney singled, was forced at second by Matt Kemp who promptly stole second. Casey Blake walked and Brad Ausmus, giving Russ Martin a breather behind the plate, singled to right.
The modest lead disappeared quickly in a flurry of wildness and that pretty much was the game.
Torre, stung by the bullpen meltdown in San Diego, and hit by Kuroda's injury (although the move to the disabled list is seen as more precautionary than desperate), has suddenly inherited a pitching problem.
He has an off-day on Tuesday that could be used to give McDonald a little more experience out of the bullpen, but that remains to be seen.
"I fell behind walking guys, and you can't do that," McDonald told Ken Gurnick of MLB. "I didn't give the team a chance to win. I kind of lost focus a little bit. I didn't get back to pounding the strike zone like I did early in the game. It happened so quickly. I should have slowed down and paced myself a little better. I know why it happened: walks. Walks will kill you."
The breakdown in his control "makes me want to compete even more. I'm not bummed out. It's a small step in my development."
The veteran Ausmus pointed out that this sort of thing has happened "to everyone here in the locker room." The game speeds up on you, he said, "As slow as the game seems from the stands, in your mind it can move at the speed of light. But you can learn to slow it down. All young players go through this. We're looking at things that are fixable."
Casey Blake then slugged a two-run homer (#2) in the seventh inning, and Manny Ramirez knocked in Rafael Furcal after he doubled in the eighth inning to make the score 6-4. But Guillermo Mota gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth to kill the comeback attempt.
Ramirez and Ausmus collected two hits each and Matt Kemp scored twice as the offense continues to find it's way. Andre Ethier took an 0-for-4 on his birthday.
With Kuroda sidelines, the young Dodgers' rotation has three starters with less than one full season of Major League experience each and a total of nine Major League victories.
"We knew going in that, ability-wise, we were very comfortable, but they'd go through growing pains," Torre said. "Both the kids [Stults and McDonald] will survive nicely. And we haven't given our pitchers run support to work with. We scored four runs tonight, but after we were down by five. We just have to keep plugging. We're going to hit, we're going to score runs. But we're putting a lot of pressure on our staff."
To emphasize their inexperience, McDonald was the first true rookie to make his first start in the season-opening rotation for the Dodgers (excluding Japanese veterans Kaz Ishii and Hiroki Kuroda) since Luke Prokopec in 2001.
PR Director John Rawich pointed out that James McDonald joined join some select company in Dodger history when he made his first Major League start in Arizona while beginning the season in the Los Angeles rotation. The last two Dodger pitchers coming off a full season in the Los Angeles minor leagues to make such a leap were Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Don Sutton (1966).
Kuroda Placed on DL
Hiroki Kuroda felt tightness in his ribcage and after throwing briefly for trainer Stan Conte and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, he was shut down.
"He wanted to pitch, but that's not the safe thing," Torre said, stressing that a rib injury could stay with him all season if not given time to mend.
Kuroda flew back to Los Angeles for an MRI and no structural damage was found. Kuroda was disabled retroactively, so he's eligible to pitch April 22.
Bad luck for Kuroda equates to good luck for veteran Eric Stults who was called up from Albuquerque to replace him in the rotation. He will start today against Arizona.
Stults struggled during the spring after his mother died just before he reported to Camelback Ranch. He was considered a strong contended for the fifth starting slot but recorded a 9.49 ERA with four strikeouts and eight walks over 9.1 innings.
But the young man is talented, going 2-3 over three different callups last year and had a 3.49 ERA in seven starts.
He could cement himself a place on the staff if he demonstrates more consistency. The Dodgers haven't had a starter go more than six innings yet.
Score by innings Los Angeles 010 000 210-4 Arizona 005 100 03x-9 Los Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 4 1 1 0 .276 Hudson 2b 3 0 0 0 .250 Ramirez lf 3 0 2 1 .294 Ethier rf 4 0 0 0 .250 Loney 1b 4 0 1 0 .368 Kemp cf 4 2 1 0 .368 Blake 3b 3 1 1 2 .125 Ausmus c 4 0 2 1 .500 McDonald p 1 0 0 0 .000 Troncoso p 0 0 0 0 .000 Mientk'cz ph 1 0 0 0 .000 Mota p 0 0 0 0 .000 Ohman p 0 0 0 0 .000 Loretta ph 1 0 0 0 .000 -------------------------------- Totals 33 4 8 4 DBacks 32 9 10 9 Error- Blake (1). 2b hits- Kemp (1), Furcal (2). HR- Blake (2). RBI- Ausmus (1), Blake 2, (4), Ramirez (4). LOB- Los Angeles 5, DBacks 8. SB- Kemp (1). Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era McDonald (0-1) 2.1 2 5-5 3 2 19.29 Troncoso 3.2 5 1-1 1 1 2.45 Mota 1.1 2 3-3 2 0 11.57 Ohman 0.2 1 0-0 0 0 4.50 HBP- by McDonald.Dodger Blue Notes-- Casey Blake is 2-for-16 this season, with both of his hits coming on home runs. He has a .125 batting average but a .500 slugging percentage. ... James Loney has hit in four of the club's five games. Loney and Matt Kemp are both 7-for-16 (.368). ... Manny Ramirez, with two hits and an RBI on Friday, has raised his average to .294 entering Saturday. ...In addition to his first triple as a Dodger, Orlando Hudson stole a base in the sixth inning on Thursday, his third of the season after nabbing only four last year. ...Cory Wade, who pitched in three of the four games in the San Diego series, was charged with a blown save in the same game. The Dodgers' first blown save last year came April 14 in game No. 13 by Takashi Saito. ... Rafael Furcal committed the team's first error of the season by overthrowing catcher Russell Martin with his relay on Luis Rodriguez's tiebreaking double in the eighth inning.
This Day in Dodger History
April 11, 1912 - The final opening day in Washington Park (capacity 22,000) before moving to Ebbets Field, 30,000 Brooklyn fans overflow onto the field, crowding so close to the infield that the umpires made a ground rule that any ball hit into the crowd was a ground-rule double. The Giants hit 13 of them and led 18-3 after six when the umpires mercifully called the game "because of darkness" with the sun still shining.
April 11, 1947 - Jackie Robinson signs a Brooklyn contract and will become the first African-American to play in the Major Leagues. (See story elsewhere on this site.)
April 11, 1959 - The Dodgers open the season in 42-degree weather in Chicago and lose 6-1, their second straight season opening away from home. But they win the National League pennant and finish the season, again in Chicago, beating the White Sox in six games,
April 11, 1961 - Don Drysdale makes his fourth straight opening game start, beating the Phillies 6-2 in the Los Angeles Coliseum.
April 11, 1962 - The Dodgers win their first game in new Dodger Stadium as Sandy Koufax earned a 6-2 victory, helped by the first Dodger home run in the new park by Jim Gilliam.
April 11, 1973 - Rookie Ron Cey replaces Ken McMullen, out with a muscle spasm in his back, at third base and although the Dodgers lose 4-1 to Cincinnati, Cey becomes the permanent third baseman ending a long search that started with Dick Gray in 1958.