After waiting 32 years to have another ring ceremony at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers had to wait one more day, with an off day before Friday’s home opener in Los Angeles.
“It was a long day. It was a long day,” third baseman Justin Turner said. “I was up early this morning and ready to roll.”
Turner was ready when the game started as well, getting the Dodgers’ first three hits, including a home run in the sixth inning to lead LA over the Nationals 1-0 before 15,036 fans at Dodger Stadium.
The 36-year-old Turner signed a two-year, $34 million contract to return to the Dodgers in February, keeping the heart of the lineup intact while retaining a fan favorite for the last seven seasons. The adulation was evident for Turner when receiving his championship ring before Friday’s game, a 45-minute ceremony to celebrate the Dodgers’ first World Series championship in 32 years.
“We’re definitely going to be in the moment and present for the ceremony, and enjoy it, embrace it, and share it with our fans,” Turner said before the game. “Then, you know, do the best we can do to put it behind us and figure out a way to win a ballgame today.”
Offense was difficult to come by against Nationals starter Joe Ross, who opted out of the 2020 season and on Friday was pitching in his first major league since 2019. There was no rust, as Ross allowed only two singles and two walks while striking out four.
No Dodger reached scoring position in five innings against Ross, but Turner proved to be in scoring position in the batters box in the sixth against old friend Luis Avilan. Turner hit a ball 412 feet into the pavilion in left center for the first run of the game.
Turner’s second home run in five days marks a new April record for him, with 19 games still remaining in the month.
Walker Buehler matched zeroes with Ross and then some, pitching six scoreless innings in his second start of the year. Buehler allowed only six singles and walked none, striking out four, needing 90 pitches for his second win of the year. Nearly two-thirds of those pitches (59) were four-seam fastballs.
“He has a special fastball,” said catcher Will Smith. “They weren’t seeming to square him up that much, so we just let it ride.”
In 36 career starts at Dodger Stadium, including the postseason, Buehler has a 2.02 ERA in 222⅓ innings, with 267 strikeouts and 40 walks.
“There’s something about being comfortable, knowing where you’re going, and all that kind of stuff,” Buehler said. “We have a great fanbase and it’s always a good time to pitch here.”
Sadly, Buehler said he had no plans to switch his pre-start song to Wonderwall after Bronson Arroyo’s pregame video performance on Friday.
Maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me
Victor Gonzalez pitched a spotless seventh inning, and Blake Treinen worked around a leadoff double by pinch-hitter Yadiel Hernandez in a scoreless eighth.
In the ninth inning the Dodgers turned to Corey Knebel with a one-run lead in their first game since Kenley Jansen blew a save on Wednesday. Jansen pitched both Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Today would have been three out of four, so we talked before the game about wanting to stay away from him,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s in the same bucket as all of our other pitchers, just managing workload and appreciating that we have a long season ahead of us.”
Knebel struck out the side in the ninth on 10 pitches for his second save. The right-hander has retired 10 of 11 batters faced this season and has yet to give up a hit. Roberts would not commit to a change at the closer position, preferring to keep his options open.
“We’re in a really good spot, whether it’s Victor in a certain run, Corey or Blake,” Roberts said. “I feel good about any one of those guys outside of Kenley.”
Home opener particulars
Home run: Justin Turner (2)
WP — Walker Buehler (1-0): 6 IP, 6 hits, 4 strikeouts
LP — Luis Avilan (0-1): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 strikeouts
Sv — Corey Knebel (2): 1 IP, 3 strikeouts