Joc Pederson believes he's a building under construction, still just a work in progress. On Monday night, in the opener of a three-game series against the rival San Francisco Giants, Pederson looked more like the Empire State Building.
"It's a long process," said Pederson of his development. "But I just keep putting brick on brick."
Pederson went 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, a home run and a dazzling defensive play in center to start the game as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Giants 8-3 for their first win of the season against the reigning World Series champions.
Just four days prior, the Dodgers were reeling after getting swept by San Francisco in a humbling three-game series at AT&T Park.
Monday marked the rematch of last Tuesday's pitching contest between Brett Anderson and Tim Lincecum. "The Freak" won that battle, but the Dodgers got the better of him in Los Angeles.
The former two-time Cy Young Award winner allowed four runs on eight hits and walked three batters over 4 innings, his shortest start of the season.
"I was missing over the middle of the plate too much," said Lincecum. "And regardless of the ball being down or up, I'm missing on the sides of the plate that I shouldn't be missing on."
The Dodgers made it a point of emphasis to put together more quality at-bats against Lincecum and force him to throw up in the zone. The strategy worked as Los Angeles put runners on base in each of the first three innings against Lincecum.
After stranding runners in the first two innings, the Dodgers broke through with four in the bottom half of the third thanks to a string of singles by the boys in blue. After a leadoff walk, Howie Kendrick, Adrian Gonzalez, Scott Van Slyke and Juan Uribe all singled before Pederson hit a double down the right field line.
"All of us had good at-bats that inning," said Pederson. "Hitting is contagious and we were able to get to him [Lincecum] early."
Pederson ranks third in the National League in on-base percentage and has reached base safely in 15 of 19 games he's played in.
In addition to his offense, Pederson has been piquant on defense as he ranks second in the league in outfield assists. Pederson added another clip to his personal highlight reel in the first inning when he made an over the shoulder catch at the warning track on a dead run that doubled off Nori Aoki who was running on the play.
"That was a Gold Glove caliber play," said starting pitcher Brett Anderson. "To catch the ball and then fire a strike to the relay man and get Aoki at first was amazing. I thought it was over his head. He's made a couple plays behind me already and also threw a guy out at the plate. He's been tremendous."
Anderson (1-1) nearly coughed up the lead in the top half of the 5th after a two-out rally by the Giants was punctuated with a Joe Panik double to deep right field. Anderson allowed three runs on five hits in 4 2/3 innings before being relieved by Carlos Frias who worked out of the jam and earned his first win of the season.
"It's frustrating because these guys handed me a four-run lead," said Anderson of his performance. "I could have saved the bullpen a little bit and not used those guys. I've got to do better. Fortunately, we got the win."
The Dodgers bullpen did the job pitching 4 1/3 innings of scoreless ball. Adam Liberatore still has yet to surrender a run in 2015 (MLB or minors) and Yimi Garcia and Chris Hatcher each pitched a perfect inning of their own.
Justin "Big Red" Turner blew the doors off the barn in the bottom of the 8th when he hit the first pinch-hit home run of his career. The third pinch-hit homer on the season for Los Angeles was a three-run blast that was also Turner's first on the year.
"It was a real nice feeling," said Turner of getting the first one out of the way. "I think it's my first career pinch-hit homer as well. To get those three runs and get that cushion going into the ninth is always good."
Before the game the Dodgers announced that starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy had a torn UCL and would be out for the remainder of the season.
Dodgers legend and baseball Hall of Famer Don Drysdale was honored before the game as his widow Ann Meyers and children DJ, Darren and Drew all participated in pregame festivities. Hip-hop recording artist, Kendrick Lamar, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Carl Crawford was injured in the bottom of the second inning and was taken out of the game with tightness in his right oblique.