Crawford, Dodgers down Padres

Forrest Lee, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly had high expectations for Carl Crawford this season, but even Mattingly couldn't have imagined the blazing start Crawford is having.
"You really don't expect someone to come out and hit .450 or .500," Mattingly said. I don't expect anyone to do that, but I've seen how good Carl has been in the past."
Crawford continued to sizzle, hitting a leadoff homer and legging out a standup triple as the Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres 4-3 before an announced crowd of 22,843 on Wednesday night at Petco Park.
Crawford has four consecutive multi-hit games and six in his seven starts. He is batting .464 with a .531 on-base percentage.
"You never know how it's going to go, but you hope for the best," said Crawford, who has been hampered by injuries the past two seasons, including Tommy John surgery on his left elbow last August, two days before he was traded from the Boston Red Sox to Los Angeles. "After the past two years, the way things are going for me it's kind of a surprise, but a good surprise.
"One of the things was to make it for Opening Day and get off to a good start. Just making sure I'm ready, my body feels the way I want it to feel, make sure I've got the proper amount of hacks and enough at-bats in spring (training). It's definitely fun. Everything is good for me right now."
Crawford the game's second pitch from Padres starter Eric Stults over the left field wall to give the Dodgers a lead they would never relinquish. Crawford, who went 2-for-4, also scored on a fifth-inning single by Mark Ellis after a triple to right-center. The Padres intentionally walked Crawford in the sixth with runners at second and third and two out, and Mark Ellis struck out to end the threat.
Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, making his debut after starting the season on the disabled list due to elbow pain, had a strong outing. Billingsley (1-0) limited San Diego to five hits and one run in six innings. He struck out three and walked three.
"For the first outing after a lengthy kind of rehab last year, I thought (Billingsley) was pretty impressive," Mattingly said.
In 23 starts against the Padres, Billingsley is 13-8 overall.
"He was definitely sharp with his fastball," said San Diego infielder Yonder Alonso, who went 2-for-4. "He was controlling the strike zone early in the game. He was throwing to both sides and did a good job of keeping the ball down."
Los Angeles closer Brandon League gave up two runs in the ninth before recording his third save. With two outs, Chris Denorfia stuck out but reached first on a passed ball by A.J. Ellis. Everth Cabrera scored on the play, and the Padres had runners at first and second, but Alonso flied out to end the game.
"Hell of a game. We hung in there," Padres manager Bud Black said. "Our bullpen did a pretty good job of keeping them off the board the last few innings. We had some opportunities."
Chris Denorfia went 2-for-5 with an RBI for the Padres, while Nick Hundley tied a career high with four hits.
Stults (1-1) allowed four runs on eight hits in five innings. He struck out four and didn't walk a batter.
"Eric hung in there, but they didn't miss a couple of mistakes," Black said.
Stults gave up his second homer of the game in the second, when A.J. Ellis tagged him for a two-run shot to give the Dodgers a 3-0 advantage.
The Padres cut the lead to 3-1 in the fourth. Denorfia's double to right-center scored Will Venable, who walked.
NOTES: Los Angeles CF Matt Kemp went 2-for-5, giving him a .337 career average at Petco, the third-highest mark among players with at least 75 at-bats. ... Dodgers RF Andre Ethier, who turned 31 on Wednesday, extended his hitting streak to 10 games, dating back to Oct. 1, 2012. Ethier is hitting .343 (12-for-35) with four doubles, two home runs and four RBIs during that stretch. ... Dodgers third baseman Luis Cruz singled in the first inning to end an 0-for-17 skid. ... Los Angeles catcher Tim Federowicz was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to make room for Billingsley, who was activated for his start. ... Denorfia got the start in left for the Padres in place of Carlos Quentin, who exited Tuesday's game in the seventh inning after being hit by a pitch just above his right wrist. X-rays on Quentin were negative. Denorfia extended his hitting streak to six games with a fourth-inning single.

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