Chad Billingsley may have given the best performance of his career Friday… (Denis Poroy / Getty Images )
Hey, what’s not to love about 3-1 start on the road? A team will take that any time. And to be sure, there was plenty to like about the way the Dodgers opened the season in San Diego. Which is not the same as liking it all.
-- Easily the best thing to happen to the Dodgers this weekend was the performance of Chad Billingsley. His start in the second game might have been the finest performance of his five-year career.
He was aggressive from the get-go, threw strikes and was in complete command. And it was great timing for a couple of reasons: He was coming off a worrisome spring (5.91 ERA) and it saved the bullpen, coming the day after Clayton Kershaw had to leave the opener after just three innings because of the flu.
-- Matt Kemp continued where he left off. Which is mashing the ball. The early indication is, he hasn’t come back fat and happy after his sterling 2011 season and signing his $160-million contract.
After four games, Kemp is batting .412, leads the majors in runs (six) and is tied for the lead in RBI (eight) with Miguel Cabrera and …
-- Andre Ethier. He was an extra-base hitting machine in the spring. Of his 20 hits, 15 went for extra bases. Though he’s currently hitting a modest .267, all four of his hits were for extra bases.
--A.J. Ellis looked comfortable and in control in his first series as the team’s starting catcher. In 13 plate appearances, he had three hits and four walks (.538 on-base percentage) and saw a lot of pitches. And he looked strong behind the plate.
-- Javy Guerra did not look like someone ready to surrender his closer’s role. He went 2-for-2 in save opportunities, allowing only one baserunner in two innings.
-- Josh Lindblom is making a case to stick. The last pitcher added to the bullpen threw four scoreless innings and did not allow a hit.
-- Matt Guerrier showed no signs of having missed time this spring with a sore back. In two relief appearances, the threw a pair of scoreless innings.
And the not-so positives:
-- James Loney is still looking for his first hit. He went 0-for-12 with three strikeouts.
-- Juan Uribe managed one hit in 12 at-bats and did nothing to alleviate fears his dismal 2011 is behind him.
-- Neither of the new starting pitchers, Chris Capuano and Aaron Harang, could last five innings. Capuano at least pitched well through four innings.
Hopefully they won’t be Ned Colletti’s Hiroki Kuroda version of Buzzie Bavasi’s infamous comment when Nolan Ryan left: “We’ll just have to find a couple of 8-7 pitchers to replace him.”
-- Scott Elbert, the lone left-hander in the bullpen, struggled in both of his appearances. He has to be making the Dodgers nervous.