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Gavin Lux highlights Dodgers lineup depth in opening day win over Rockies

5-run fourth inning holds up at Coors

COLORADO ROCKIES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS, MLB Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

The depth and length of the Dodgers lineup was evident in a six-batter stretch that spelled doom for Kyle Freeland and the Rockies. Los Angeles only scored in one of nine innings on opening day, but the crooked number was enough in a 5-3 triumph at Coors Field.

Adding the designated hitter back to the National League gives another dimension to the Dodgers, whose depth make them uncommonly qualified to field a lineup with nine productive hitters. The Dodgers’ No. 9 hitter on Friday, Gavin Lux, reached base three times, driving in two tying runs and scoring the go-ahead run with an adventurous roll into home plate.

Faced with the promise of Freeland, Mookie Betts found real estate on first base without the benefit of a hit, walk, or hit by pitch, as the pitch that struck him out to start the game rolled to the backstop. This was the polar opposite of last year’s first game, which was also at Coors Field, when Cody Bellinger’s first home run of the season instead turned into a single.

The Dodgers could not cash in that gift in the first inning, and had all sorts of trouble because Kyle Freeland kept striking people out. Six Dodgers went down in the first first three innings, with only a single and a walk to show for it, and no runs.

Freeland was cruising, but his second time through the batting order showed the strength and depth of the Dodgers lineup. Down two runs with one out in the fifth inning, check out this stretch starting with the sixth hitter for Los Angeles on Friday:

  • Will Smith: single, 105.9-mph exit velocity
  • Chris Taylor: double, 99.2 mph off the right field wall
  • Cody Bellinger: foul pop for the second out
  • Gavin Lux: two-strike, two-run single, 102.5 mph
  • Mookie Betts: RBI double, 95.7 mph
  • Freddie Freeman: walk

Those 19 pitches not only robbed Freeman and the Rockies of the lead, but also yanked him from the game. The lineup didn’t get any shorter though, and Trea Turner’s single brought home another run, then a Tyler Kinley wild pitch scored Freeman, bringing home the second of Freeland’s bequeathed runners.

That rally was more than enough for Buehler, who impressed in his first career opening day start. The conditions were less than ideal for such a momentous start, with the limited spring training and not a lot of buildup, coupled with the high-run environment of Coors Field.

But Buehler was up to the task. Colorado got to Buehler with three hits bunched together in the second inning, all with two strikes, to score a pair of runs. But he only allowed one other hit in his five innings.

Buehler worked around walks in a pair of frames, and stranded a two-out double with was exacerbated by an error by striking out C.J. Cron, who represented the tying run, to end his day after 78 pitches.

After averaging over six innings per start in 2021, including going at least six frames in 26 of his first 27 starts, pitching only five innings might not sound like much for Buehler. But considering the circumstances, after a short spring, and with literally 11 relief pitchers on the roster, it was a pretty easy call to pull him after five.

The A-team bullpen followed Buehler on Friday, with Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, Daniel Hudson, combining for three scoreless innings. Craig Kimbrel allowed two doubles and a run in the ninth, but struck out newly-signed Rockie Kris Bryan to pick up the save in his Dodgers debut.

Is this thing on?

It wasn’t quite a home run that turned into a single, but there was still an opening day oddity at Coors Field. Remember the new umpire announcements to MLB crowds for replay reviews? The new feature that was tried in an exhibition game for the first time in Monday in the Freeway Series?

Well, one of the consequences of having an umpire with a microphone came to pass on Friday.

Opening day particulars

Home runs: none

WP — Walker Buehler (1-0): 5 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts

LP — Kyle Freeland (0-1): 3⅔ IP, 5 hits, 5 runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Sv — Craig Kimbrel (1): 1 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 2 strikeouts

Up next

Tony Gonsolin gets the start on Saturday night for the Dodgers (5:10 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), with right-hander German Márquez on the mound for Colorado.