Magic Johnson's Dodgers open with a win


Magic Johnson's Dodgers open with a win

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN DIEGO (AP) -- It was a Magic start to the season for everyone with the Los Angeles Dodgers except for reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, who was too sick to go longer than three innings on opening day. With incoming and outgoing owners Magic Johnson and Frank McCourt watching from next to the dugout, the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres 5-3 Thursday. Johnson, the former Lakers great who is part of a group buying the Dodgers from McCourt for 2.15 billion, had a big smile after Matt Kemp hit a two-run homer in the eighth, giving him three RBIs. "It was kind of cool -- right when I came back from hitting the home run, he stuck his head in the dugout and said, Nice job, kid,'" Kemp said. "I was like, Hey, it's Magic Johnson right there, man.' It's good to have him around and good to see him. That was a little motivation right there. I was pretty pumped up for that. It was a good day all around. Good W." Johnson and McCourt sat next to each other and chatted throughout the game. Johnson didn't comment as he was quickly whisked out of the ballpark in an SUV. Kershaw left with the stomach flu after limiting the Padres to two hits through three innings. He struck out three, walked one and singled off newcomer Edinson Volquez in the third for the Dodgers' first hit of the season. Manager Don Mattingly said he saw Kershaw lying down in the tunnel behind the dugout after the third. "It's not a real good sign when your starting pitcher was laying down," Mattingly said. Mattingly said he and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt discussed holding out Kershaw. "He wanted to go," the manager said. "He wasn't dizzy or didn't have a fever or any of that kind of stuff, so it was one of those situations where he wanted to go. "I'm sure (the Padres) were looking for a lot more out there on opening day," Mattingly added. "His fastball probably looked more like some type of a changeup or something. Basically he was trying to get quick innings, get through them, get off the field, try to survive inning by inning. Pretty impressive, really, that he gets that far." Said Padres manager Bud Black: "It's nice to get him out of the game, thinking the Cy Young Award winner is out and you have six innings to go score runs." Josh Lindblom (1-0) pitched two perfect innings in relief of Kershaw. Javy Guerra pitched the ninth for the save. It was a poor start for the Padres. Volquez walked in L.A's first two runs in the fourth inning and the Padres committed three errors, two of which led to the Dodgers' third run. Volquez (0-1), Cincinnati's opening-day starter a year ago, struck out five through three scoreless innings and singled off Kershaw in the third for the Padres' first hit. He then allowed two runs on four walks, including three in a row, and two singles in the fourth. Volquez loaded the bases with one out before walking James Loney. Andre Ethier was called out trying to score on a wild pitch, but replays showed he touched the plate just before Volquez tagged him. Volquez again loaded the bases, and then walked A.J. Ellis. "I lost my control a little bit in the fourth," Volquez said. "I got lucky to get out of there with two runs. I thought I made some good pitches for strikes and they were called balls." A half-inning earlier, the Padres loaded the bases with two outs against Kershaw before Chase Headley took a called third strike. Volquez went five, allowing three runs, two earned, and three hits. He struck out seven and walked four. Dee Gordon led off the Dodgers' fifth with a fly ball to center that glanced off Cameron Maybin's glove for a three-base error. With one out, Gordon scored when shortstop Jason Bartlett booted Kemp's grounder. Kemp hit a drive to right off Brad Brach in the eighth, making it 5-1. Brach was recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A. San Diego's Jesus Guzman hit an RBI double off Mike MacDougal in the sixth and Maybin had a two-run homer to left off Kenley Jansen in the eighth that was estimated at 445 feet. NOTES: The Padres placed RHP Tim Stauffer on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Wednesday, with a strained pitching elbow. Stauffer had been expected to start the season opener before he experienced soreness in his arm. To take Stauffer's roster spot, Brach was recalled from Tucson. ... The four-game series continues Friday night, when the scheduled starters are Chad Billingsley for the Dodgers and Cory Luebke for the Padres. ... Jerry Coleman, celebrating his 70th year in baseball and his 40th with the Padres, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. The longtime broadcaster played second base for the New York Yankees for nine seasons and managed the Padres in 1980.

Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)


Scouting the Cubs' competition: The Braves are coming (but not yet)

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Atlanta Braves

2017 record: 72-90, 3rd place in NL East

Offseason additions: Preston Tucker, Charlie Culberson, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir, Peter Moylan, Chase Whitley, Grant Dayton, Chris Stewart, Anibal Sanchez

Offseason departures: Matt Kemp, R.A. Dickey, Jason Motte, Matt Adams

X-factor: Ozzie Albies

One of the youngest players in the league, Albies just turned 21 in January. He carries with him the pedigree of the game's No. 11 overall prospect entering last season and got his first taste of big-league life toward the end of 2017.

He hit well, posting a .286 average and .810 OPS while showing an advanced knowledge of the strike zone and providing some pop and speed.

Assuming he can avoid any sophomore slump and take another step forward, the Braves could actually surprise some people this year. But without Albies providing Ender Inciarte and Freddie Freeman some lineup support until a certain phenom gets to town, it's hard to see Atlanta contending.

Projected lineup

1. Ender Inciarte - CF
2. Ozzie Albies - 2B
3. Freddie Freeman - 1B
4. Tyler Flowers - C
5. Nick Markakis - RF
6. Preston Tucker - LF
7. Dansby Swanson - SS
8. Rio Ruiz - 3B

Projected rotation

1. Julio Teheran
2. Mike Foltynewicz
3. Brandon McCarthy
4. Sean Newcomb
5. Scott Kazmir


The Braves are coming, you guys. 

Maybe not now, but they'll be here soon enough.

2018 will feature growing pains for a young group of up-and-comers including the aforementioned Albies, plus Tucker (a powerful outfielder acquired from the Astros), Swanson (the 2015 No. 1 overall pick who's since fallen on tough times) and Newcomb.

Oh and there's some guy named Ronald Acuna coming up next. You may have heard of him.

The 20-year-old phenom has absolutely torn the cover off the ball everywhere he's gone the last 14 or so months and we'll see the game's No. 1 overall prospect in the big leagues in mid-April, God willing.

Once Acuna does come, it adds another level to a lineup that frankly comes up a bit short right now, even with Freeman (one of the best hitters in baseball) and Inciarte (one of the game's most underrated players). 

The Braves have a solid bullpen, plenty of rotation depth and a decent bench. It wouldn't be shocking to see them challenge for the second wild card spot, but true contention will probably come in 2019 for this bunch.

Prediction: 3rd in NL West, no playoffs

Complete opposition research

Los Angeles Dodgers
San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks
Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves

Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season


Podcast: Eddie O discusses what went wrong for Blackhawks this season

Eddie Olczyk joins Pat Boyle, Steve Konroyd and Jamal Mayers to discuss what went wrong for the Blackhawks this season, and what changes could happen this summer to get the team back into the postseason.

Listen to the entire HawksTalk Podcast here: