LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw was as shocked as anyone. Known as one of the best pitchers in baseball, Kershaw delivered in stunning fashion with his bat in a season-opening win over the rival San Francisco Giants.
"I had no idea it was going to go out or not because I've never hit one like that before in game," Kershaw said. "But what an awesome feeling."
Kershaw's first Major League home run and complete-game shutout sparked the Dodgers to a 4-0 victory over the defending champions Monday at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw smacked the first pitch he saw from reliever George Kontos over the center-field wall to break up a scoreless contest. It was only the second extra-base hit of Kershaw's career in 263 career at-bats. A .146 lifetime hitter, Kershaw had a double last season.
"I figured I'd better swing at the first pitch because I'd already struck out twice," Kershaw said.
Kershaw retired Giants' third baseman Pablo Sandoval on a grounder for the final out in the ninth to cap the four-hit victory. He struck out seven and walked none on 94 pitches. Despite his heroics, the 25-year-old lefty tried to temper some of the post-game excitement.
"It means we're 1-0 and we've got a 161 more (games)," Kershaw said. "Can't get too excited but it's a good way to start, for sure."
With Dodger legend Sandy Koufax on hand to throw at the opening pitch and Kershaw on top of his game, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was asked about Kershaw being the "next Koufax."
"I know (former Dodgers manager) Joe (Torre) made comparisons pretty early with Clayton and Sandy," Mattingly said. "But I'd be lying if I didn't say it didn't flash in my mind in the sixth when he was rolling along. It probably isn't fair to Clayton to throw that on him right now.
"But really for this day and Sandy throwing the opening pitch out...it made me think about it during the game."
Kershaw pitched effectively against the Giants last season, posing a 1.62 ERA in 39 innings, although he had just a 2-3 record.
"He's been tough on us," Giants manager Bruce Bochy told the San Jose Mercury-News. "We've seen a lot of these games."
The Dodgers added three more runs after the Kershaw homer. Carl Crawford, who went 2-for-4 in his Dodgers debut, doubled to left field, took third on Mark Ellis' bunt single, then scored on a wild pitch by Giants reliever Santiago Casilla. Andre Ethier and catcher A.J. Ellis added RBI groundouts.
Kontos, who took the loss, was charged with three runs and three hits in one-plus inning.
Kontos' rough outing overshadowed a strong performance by San Francisco starter Matt Cain. The right-hander struck out eight in six scoreless innings. He gave up four hits and one walk. Cain threw 93 pitches, almost a third of those coming in the first inning, before being relieved by Kontos in the seventh.
Cain pitched himself into a jam in the first inning but managed to escape it. He gave up a leadoff infield single to Crawford, then hit Mark Ellis with a pitch in the back. Cain struck out Matt Kemp, and, with Adrian Gonzalez at the plate with one out, catcher Buster Posey threw out Crawford attempting to steal third.
After walking Gonzalez, Cain fanned Ethier to end the inning.
Sandoval and Angel Pagan both went 2-for-4 and provided all of the Giants' hits.
The Giants may have a target on their backs this season after winning two of the past three World Series, although Posey is not sure that's how the Dodgers are looking at this series.
"You'd have to ask them," Posey told the Mercury News. "But with the success we've had the past few years, I'm sure that people are excited to play us."
NOTES: Twenty-one of the 25 players on the Giants' roster played on last season's team. The new additions are right-handed pitcher Chad Gaudin, infielder Nick Noonan, catcher Guillermo Quiroz and outfielder Andres Torres. Noonan is the only rookie on the club. ... Kershaw held the Giants to a .197 batting average last season. ... Dodgers part owner Magic Johnson was scheduled to throw out the first pitch to former Dodgers pitcher Orel Hershiser, now an ESPN announcer. But in a nice slice of humor, Mattingly bolted from the dugout and motioned for a reliever to lift Johnson. Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax emerged, much to the delight of the crowd, and Koufax proceeded to throw out the first pitch. ... The game drew a sellout crowd of 53,138.