LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw will make his franchise-record eighth consecutive opening day start for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are aiming for a second straight World Series appearance with virtually the same roster as last year.
Kershaw takes the mound Thursday against the rival San Francisco Giants and Ty Blach, whose only opening day starts have been in the minors. Blach drew the assignment because of injuries to Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija.
After falling one win short of their first World Series title since 1988, the Dodgers have shifted their focus from losing to Houston in Game 7 to earning another shot this year.
“We understand what our goal is,” manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s to do whatever we can to win the World Series.”
The Giants are trying to get back in contention in the NL West after finishing last in 2017. They added former All-Stars outfielder Andrew McCutchen and third baseman Evan Longoria in the offseason.
The teams are playing on opening day for the first time since 2013. Kershaw was the starter back then and tossed a four-hit shutout in a 4-0 win that included him homering.
Newly turned 30, Kershaw is coming off the best spring of his career. The left-hander had a 0.00 ERA in six starts. He allowed 12 hits, struck out 23 and walked four. He can opt out of his contract after the season.
“It does help to have guys that have had numerous opening days, essentially the same group of guys we’ve had the last couple years,” Roberts said. “These are guys that have done a lot of things.”
Behind Kershaw, the Dodgers’ rotation stays the same, while two-time All-Star Kenley Jansen remains one of the best closers in the game.
The Dodgers open without third baseman Justin Turner, who begins the season on the disabled list with a broken wrist after getting hit by a pitch in spring training. Right-hander Tom Koehler (shoulder) joins him, while left-hander Julio Urias (shoulder surgery) is on the 60-day DL.
Logan Forsythe moves from second to third in Turner’s absence, while Kike Hernandez and Chase Utley will split time at second. Reigning NL rookie of the year Cody Bellinger plays his first full season at first base, while 2016 NL Rookie of the Year Corey Seager returns at shortstop.
Fans will recognize a familiar face in the lineup. Matt Kemp, acquired from Atlanta in the offseason as part of a salary swap and rumored to be trade bait, has earned a start in left field after his strong showing in spring training.
The 33-year-old veteran lost 40 pounds during the winter and hit .263 in spring training with an on-base percentage of .317.
Yasiel Puig returns in right field, while Chris Taylor will be in center field and bat leadoff. Joc Pederson is also part of the outfield logjam.
Behind the plate, Austin Barnes has supplanted Yasmani Grandal as the starter.
The Dodgers are celebrating their 60th year in Los Angeles. On Thursday, they will recognize the 30th anniversary of the 1988 World Series championship and Kirk Gibson will toss out the first pitch. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015.
The Dodgers on Wednesday optioned outfielder Andrew Toles to Triple-A Oklahoma City a day after outfielder Trayce Thompson was designated for assignment as a result of right-hander Cory Mazzoni being claimed from the Cubs and optioned to Triple-A. Toles returns from major knee surgery that derailed him last year.
“I believe in the guys we have,” Roberts said, “but there’s a long way to go.”
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