Matt Cain of the San Francisco Giants matched the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw zero for zero through the first six innings.
Then Cain had to be taken out.
The reason: He had already thrown 92 pitches.
That could have been the difference in the Dodgers' season-opening 4-0 victory over the Giants on Monday.
"That's what you've got to do when you're facing aces, get them out of the game quickly," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said.
Kershaw went the distance, throwing 94 pitches in a four-hit shutout.
The key inning for the Dodgers was the first, when they failed to score but forced Cain to throw 29 pitches.
"You look at the good of what comes out of something like that," Andre Ethier said. "Guys went out there and had tough at-bats."
Carl Crawford led off the first with an infield single. The next batter, Mark Ellis, was hit by a pitch.
Matt Kemp followed, and he struck out. But on reflection, several players pointed to his 11-pitch at-bat as a potential game changer.
Kemp fell behind, 0-2, but worked the count full. He stayed alive by fouling off five pitches. Kemp said the pitch he missed for the third strike was probably a ball, but recognized the importance of his at-bat.
"You have a guy like Matt Cain that's really good, you have to battle against him, try to get him out of the game," Kemp said. "He struck me out, but maybe I got him a little tired, wore him down a little bit."
Adrian Gonzalez walked, moments after Crawford was thrown out trying to steal third base. Ethier struck out to end the inning.
By the time the seventh inning came around, Giants Manager Bruce Bochy had no intention of gambling with his ace's arm and replaced him with George Kontos, who served up the go-ahead home run to Kershaw an inning later.
"It was his first outing," Bochy said. "It's a long season. You always look at the big picture."
The Dodgers won on opening day for the third consecutive year and for the fifth time in six years. . . . Gonzalez singled in the fourth inning, extending to hitting streak to 16 games, dating to Sept. 19 last season. . . . Luis Cruz was intentionally walked in the eighth inning. The walk was Cruz's first since Aug. 29. Cruz didn't draw a single walk over the final 31 games of 2012.