Efficiency was the name of the game on opening day at Coors Field, but the Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw came out on the short end of the stick in an 8-5 loss on Thursday afternoon.
Kershaw was tidy, walking only one of his 28 batters faced, and needing only 77 pitches to record his 17 outs. The problem was, what chances the Rockies got, they took advantage of, and the opportunities piled up as the game went on.
Colorado scored their first four runs thanks in no small part to a fly ball triple from Chris Owings, two sacrifice bunts (including a successful squeeze play), an RBI grounder, and an error on a roller under Corey Seager’s job at shortstop.
But before reflexively chalking that up to bad luck, it’s important to note that Kershaw induced only five swings and misses on the day, matching his lowest total from any start in 2020. The devil came due for Kershaw in the sixth inning, when the Rockies jumped on Kershaw for four singles — two on the first pitch — for two more runs, ending his day.
Kershaw allowed six runs in his 5⅔ innings, only one less run than in 51⅔ innings in his first eight opening day starts. The Rockies tallied 10 hits against Kershaw, just the eighth time in 385 starts in the regular and postseason combined he’s allowed double-digit hits. Three of those games have been at Coors Field, with he first two coming in 2008 and 2013.
Kershaw was even more efficient after the game, saying his performance “wasn’t great.”
When asked what specifically he didn’t like about his game, Kershaw said, “The runs being scored.”
Colorado continued to capitalize even after Kershaw was out, scoring runs on two different wild pitches by Jimmy Nelson in the seventh inning.
On the second of those wild pitches, Austin Barnes appeared to get injured on a diving tag attempt at home plate. He was removed from the game after consultation with the training staff, and replaced at catcher by Will Smith.
The Dodgers on offense was anything but efficient, but tried to close the gap on sheer volume.
It didn’t work.
They made German Marquez work, getting six hits and six walks, forcing him to throw 92 pitches before an early exit. But despite the seven hard-hit balls and the .571 on-base percentage off the Rockies ace, the Dodgers managed just one run in his four innings.
In addition to the old fashioned rally killers, with a pair of double plays in the first two innings, the Dodgers dabbled in the macabre to limit their scoring in the third inning. With one out and Justin Turner on first after a single, Cody Bellinger drove a ball to deep left field,and that’s when the confusion started.
At first, it looked like Raimel Tapia might have caught the ball at the wall, so Turner quickly retreated to first base. As he was doing so, Turner passed Bellinger in between first and second base. So even though Bellinger did in fact hit the ball over the wall, he was out for passing Turner, and credited with an RBI single instead of a two-run homer.
“It was just one of those unfortunate plays,” Dave Roberts said. “I don’t think it’s going to happen again this year.”
In the fifth inning with Marquez out of the game, Bellinger struck again with a leadoff dunker into left field, and through it traveled 140 feet less than his “single,” this time Bellinger got a double. Two outs later, Gavin Lux drove him home with an RBI single of his own, this one the more traditional kind, not over the fence.
The Dodgers put at least two runners on base in eight of nine innings, and in total reached base 24 times in 46 trips to the plate. But they only cashed in five runs, and left the bases loaded in the ninth.
Going 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position didn’t help. Neither Rockies second baseman Chris Owings, who had three hits, stole a base and scored three times, and also started this magnificent double play to end a threat in the seventh inning.
Chris OWINGS! That is all... pic.twitter.com/f3M3W4fwPL— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM (@ATTSportsNetRM) April 1, 2021
“We didn’t play a good baseball game today. We gave away too many bases,” Dave Roberts said. “Knowing baseball, it’s a long season. There’s going to be some games like this where the rhythm just wasn’t clean.”
Cody Bellinger (1)
WP — Chi Chi Gonzalez (1-0): 2 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
LP — Clayton Kershaw (0-1): 5⅔ IP, 10 hits, 6 runs (5 earned), 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
Sv — Daniel Bard (1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts