SYDNEY (Reuters) - Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly should have left Australia delighted on Sunday after opening the season with two wins over a National League West rival on the back of two solid performances from his starting pitchers.
Instead, the man who has been handed a big-budget roster to get the Dodgers to the World Series for the first time since 1988 was seething with frustration that his bullpen had almost let the Arizona Diamondbacks back into the game.
It all looked good after Clayton Kershaw, who signed the richest ever contract for a pitcher in January, had spearheaded Saturday’s 3-1 victory and South Korean ace Ryu Hyun-jin came out of Sunday’s game with the Dodgers 5-0 ahead.
But the Diamondbacks rallied with five runs in the last two innings and the Dodgers were left clinging on in a marathon ninth before taking the 7-5 win at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
“Clayton was really good, Hyun-jun was really good, I think that’s where we’re built,” Mattingly said.
”That’s where we don’t want to make mistakes and not take advantage of anything you could take advantage of when you’re starting pitching’s this good.
“You really don’t want to let teams back into games.”
Ryu, in his second year in the major leagues, took Sunday’s win after giving up two hits and striking out five in his five innings.
”Overall, it was very good,“ he told reporters. ”I was very satisfied with every aspect of it.
“My breaking balls were on point my fast ball was in command. My team mates were able to support me well early in the game which gave me a lot of confidence.”
Ryu, who went 14-8 with an ERA of 3.00 last season, damaged a toe-nail running between bases but said he would be “fine” and thought he could have gone longer than five innings.
“I would have like to have gone longer (but) I think Don took my side today,” said the lefthander, who turns 27 on Tuesday.
“He knew we had a comfortable lead and it’s the first game of the season so he maybe he just gave me a little break.”
Mattingly’s decision to take Ryu out of the game was a much more harmonious affair than his subsequent pulling of the relievers as the D-Backs got back into the contest.
”We talked about this last year a lot,“ Mattingly said. ”You don’t play like this and win, you may win and get to the playoffs but you don’t ‘win’ like this.
“This ends up getting us in trouble.”
Still, with Zack Greinke, who went 15-4 with an ERA of 2.63 in 2013, soon to be back in the rotation after missing the Australia trip with a calf injury, Mattingly might be in a better humor by the time he gets back to Los Angeles.
“It’s a good start and I guess I should be happy with it,” he said.
Reporting by Nick Mulvenney, editing by Patrick Johnston