Don Mattingly matched a 25-year-old feat in his managerial debut. Another win over the reigning World Series champions would put the Los Angeles Dodgers in position for their best start in 12 years.
Mattingly was named successor to the retiring Joe Torre to lead Los Angeles back to the playoffs after failing to qualify in 2010 following consecutive appearances in the NL championship series.
So far, he has the Dodgers headed in the right direction after a 2-1 win against the Giants to begin this four-game series Thursday. Mattingly also became the first rookie manager to beat a World Series champion on opening day since Lou Piniella did it with the New York Yankees on April 8, 1986.
“It feels good. You’re not going to get too giddy,” said Mattingly, who played first base for Piniella in his debut 25 years ago.
A win Friday would give Los Angeles a chance at its first 3-0 start since 1999, and giving the ball to Billingsley may be just what the Dodgers need.
Billingsley, who signed a two-year extension Tuesday, is 4-1 with a 1.30 ERA and two complete games over his last six home games against San Francisco.
The right-hander already has some motivation after going 12-11 for a second consecutive season in 2010, compiling a 3.57 ERA.
“Not making the playoffs last year after two years in the NLCS, my main goal is to make the postseason again,” Billingsley said. “That’s what we’re all working for. And as long as the team is winning, all the personal goals will be there in the end.”
Billingsley’s 59 career wins are the most for a Dodgers hurler since 2006. He could have had more after going 3-6 with a 2.92 ERA over his final 12 starts of last season because the offense managed three or fewer runs in nine of them and none in five.
The center fielder had a personal-best 28 homers last season and drove in 89 runs despite a career-low .249 average.
Sanchez is looking to build on his best season in the majors. The left-hander posted career highs in wins (13), ERA (3.07), strikeouts (205) and innings (193 1-3). However, he wasn’t nearly as effective during the postseason, going 0-2 with a 4.05 ERA in four starts while the Giants went on to win their first World Series since 1954.
That production was a major disappointment after he concluded the regular season in sterling fashion by winning five of six decisions with a 1.77 ERA while fanning 61 in 56 innings over nine starts. The stretch included his only two career wins against the Dodgers—yielding one earned run and seven hits in with 21 strikeouts in 14 innings.
He had been 0-5 with a 6.04 ERA in 13 previous meetings - nine starts.