LOS ANGELES — Finding grooves was the name of the game in the Dodgers’ home opener on Thursday night in Los Angeles, a 9-3 triumph over the Reds that saw the home team rally early and late to win their third straight game.
Freddie Freeman had two hits in his first home game as a Dodger, and before his double to lead off the eighth inning was greeted with a “FREDDIE” chant from the 52,995 fans in attendance at Dodger Stadium. The double necessitated a Reds pitching change, which allowed time for that ovation to get even louder, which Freeman acknowledged with a wave to the crowd and tapping his chest.
"Freddie" chants at Dodger Stadium. Chills. pic.twitter.com/sAsqKPjNzu— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 15, 2022
“It’s just special when 50,000 people can create a moment you’ll never forget,” Freeman said. “To be able to look up and see my family jumping up and down, with a lot of family members here. I mean, my dad, my grandfather, my kids. This is as good as it gets.”
“He kind of wears his emotions on his sleeve, and I think our fans really appreciate that,” manager Dave Roberts said of Freeman. “To put their arms around him tonight, that was the sentiment.”
The crowd got even louder five pitches later, when Trea Turner’s single to right field brought home the go-ahead run.
Noise reached a crescendo three batters later, when Will Smith homered off the glove of Jake Fraley in centerfield, a three-run shot that somehow wasn’t the end of the Dodgers’ rally.
Three hits and a walk followed, making it a six-run, game-deciding frame. Through six games this season, the Dodgers have innings scoring six runs (twice), five runs , four runs, and three runs (twice).
“We’d like to spread it over more innings,” Freeman said. “The offense is there, I think you guys have been able to see the last few games. But we’d like to be more consistent over the stretch of a whole game and not just an inning or two.”
Six Dodgers starters had two hits, and seven reached base at least twice.
On the mound
Walker Buehler, who started five Games 1 in the postseason and won a division-clinching Game 163 (now a bygone relic) before making his first opening day start last week, got the call in the home opener, too.
“He’s checked a couple boxes this year,” Roberts said before Thursday’s game.
Roberts also mentioned this was Buehler’s first home opener start, but that wasn’t true. Buehler also started the 2021 home opener, though in fairness to Roberts that day was overshadowed by the Dodgers ring ceremony and Bronson Arroyo serenading Buehler with ‘Wonderwall.’
So it was easy to forget that Buehler last year pitched six scoreless innings against the Nationals, allowing six baserunners with four strikeouts. He came within one out of matching that on Thursday, despite some early troubles. Cincinnati had some hard-hit balls early off Buehler but nothing to show for it.
But with two outs in the sixth inning, Buehler walked catcher Tyler Stephenson, then lost a seven-pitch battle to Aristedes Aquíno, whose home run to centerfield brought the Reds to within a run, ending Buehler’s night.
“Throughout the game, I felt like I found rhythm and lost it, found rhythm and lost it,” Buehler explained.
“I know he’s disappointed at that result, but if you look at Walker all night long, the delivery was really good,” Roberts said. “I thought he was fantastic.”
David Price got the final out of the sixth inning and stayed in for the seventh. But he allowed the game-tying home run to Brandon Drury, the replacement for second baseman Jonathan India, who had two of the five hits against Buehler but left with a right hamstring injury in the fifth.
Another big inning was afoot from the jump, with five straight one-out singles gave the Dodgers an early 3-0 lead. After finding runs hard to come by in the opening weekend at Coors Field, the bats seemed to find their groove in Minnesota, with six late runs to win Tuesday and a four-homer, seven-run outburst Wednesday.
Those five hits by the suddenly alive Dodgers offense came off Reds right-hander Luis Cessa, who was switched to start what looked like a bullpen game. Reiever Sanmartin was the originally scheduled starter for Cincinnati, but instead he entered this game in the second inning.
Reiver the reliever proved more than effective, holding the Dodgers to just two singles in five scoreless frames, striking out two.
Blake Treinen pitched a perfect eighth, including an eight-pitch strikeout of Joey Votto, to preserve a tie, and picked up the win.
Home runs: Will Smith (1); Aristedes Aquíno (1), Brandon Drury (2)
WP — Blake Treinen (1-1): 1 IP, 1 strikeout
LP — Justin Wilson (0-1): ⅔ IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 2 strikeouts
Tony Gonsolin starts for the Dodgers on Jackie Robinson Day (7:10 p.m., Apple TV+ only), facing right-hander Vladimir Gutiérrez for the Reds. Stephen Nelson will call play-by-play for Apple TV+, with Hunter Pence and Katie Nolan as analysts and Heidi Watney as a reporter on the broadcast.