LOS ANGELES — After a run to the National League Championship Series last season, the Los Angeles Dodgers are setting their sights on their first World Series appearance in 29 years.
“Our expectations of ourselves are to get to the World Series and win it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told MLB.com. “We feel that we have the team, the depth to do that. But now, it’s up to us to go play baseball games and execute.”
The Dodgers begin their journey against the San Diego Padres in the season opener for both teams on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
Los Angeles ace Clayton Kershaw (12-4, 1.69 ERA last season) will make his seventh straight Opening Day start, which would allow him to tie a club record shared by Don Drysdale and Don Sutton.
Kershaw will open against the Padres for the fourth time. He has won all three of his previous starts on Opening Day against the Padres, holding San Diego to three runs and nine hits in 16 innings.
“Kershaw is a guy that legitimately has the potential to be the best pitcher to ever pitch in this game,” said Padres first baseman Wil Myers, according to MLB.com. “We’ve got nothing to lose. Let’s go out there and have some fun, face the best pitcher there is. I think that’s a really cool way to start the season, starting with the best, starting with the NL West champions and Kershaw.”
Despite missing more than two months with a herniated disc in his back last year, Kershaw dominated in typical fashion for much of the season with 172 strikeouts in 149 innings. He compiled a WHIP of 0.72 in 21 starts.
With Kershaw at the top of a solid rotation and NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager (30 home runs, 89 RBIs, .312 batting average last season) headlining a group of capable hitters, the Dodgers are expected to contend for their fifth consecutive NL West title. Seventeen of the 25 players on the Dodgers’ current roster competed in the postseason, where they defeated the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series before falling to the world champion Chicago Cubs in the NLCS in six games.
The Padres, who finished last in the NL West with a 68-94 mark, 23 games behind the Dodgers, have posted losing records in six consecutive seasons. Not much is expected to change this season.
Manager Andy Green will turn to Jhoulys Chacin (6-8, 4.81, last season) to take the hill against the Dodgers.
Chacin struck out 119 batters in 144 innings in 22 starts last season with the Atlanta Braves and the Los Angeles Angels. The Padres signed him to a one-year deal during the offseason.
“It means a lot,” Chacin told the San Diego Union-Tribune regarding his Opening Day start. “I’m really thankful for the opportunity, for the manager and the staff for giving me the opportunity to start Opening Day. And I’m really excited about it. I’m looking forward to that day.”
San Diego will rely on a core of young players — most notably right fielder Hunter Renfroe, catcher Austin Hedges and center fielder Manuel Margot — in another rebuilding campaign.