Opening Day in LoDo saw 13 runs, but no homers, even though one was hit. Yea…I do my best to unravel an insane Opener to Rockies baseball.
It is finally that time of the year again, and there are fans in the stands on Opening Day at Coors Field. On a beautiful 72 degree and cloudless Colorado afternoon. For the first time in 2021, you get to see me talk about something other than Nuggets or Avalanche. We all got to some type of normalcy, with an announced 20,570 out of a possible 21,000+. I will say, I have been in Coors Field at full-capacity before the Party Deck. That was not an almost half-full stadium, thousands of tickets were available via Coloradorockies.com as of just 2 days ago, but I digress and will leave that debate for another day. Let’s focus on the game on the field.
The 2021 Opening Day in LoDo saw a battle of NL West aces. German Marquez for the Colorado Rockies, and Clayton Kershaw for the 2020 World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. And we got to enjoy the 2 types of ace performances you can expect. A workmanlike 92 pitch 4-inning performance from Marquez, and a surgically precise 44-pitch start for Kershaw. That first 4 innings saw the workman top the surgeon with the Rockies taking a 2-1 lead into the 5th.Embed from Getty Images
How we got here was a winding tale. In the 3rd-inning we got treated to a home run that was, then wasn’t, then was, then ultimately wasn’t. This is the official scoring of what was ultimately ruled a single. Here is how Yahoo! Sports puts it in the books:
“Cody Bellinger singled to deep left-center, Justin Turner scored. Cody Bellinger out advancing on throw”Yahoo! Sports Game Center Scoring
This was on a play that had Bellinger smoke a high fly ball that landed in left-fielder Raimel Tapia’s glove, then popped out and over the fence a la Jose Conseco’s Domer Homer. But unfortunately for Bellinger, Justin Turner, who was on first base, thought Tapia caught it when he came down looking like he was firing the ball back in. Turner scrambled back to first, causing Bellinger to pass him on the bases. Hence Turner scoring without ever crossing the plate, and Bellinger being ruled out and only being awarded an RBI.Embed from Getty Images
So much consternation was expressed on Rockies Twitter about the top of the lineup and where Josh Fuentes hit. But the bottom of the lineup is where the focus should have been. In the Rox half of the 3rd, you got to see what their offense will look like in 2021. Good old-fashioned small-ball based on speed and bat control. Chris Owings led off the inning with a triple to right over Mookie Betts who misjudged the ball off the bat. That was followed by Garrett Hampson pushing a bunt-single past a charging Max Muncy to tie the game at 1-1 as Owings would score. Marquez failed to move Hampson on a pop-up bunt to Kershaw. Tapia would follow with a grounded out to Kershaw that again showcased why speed kills as Hampson was able to safely make it to 2nd. This would prove crucial as Josh Fuentes started his solo story with a single to left-center scoring Hampson.
The 4th inning was again adventurous for Marquez, but he continued to find a way to end the night giving up only the 1 earned run despite 6 BB’s and 6 hits among those aforementioned 92 pitches. Those hits included 1 of the 2 Kershaw managed before being knocked out in the 5th. Here’s another stupid stat that shouldn’t be true, Kershaw is 9-22 on Opening Day for a batting average of .409 after his 2-3 performance at the plate Thursday. But even though Kershaw and company out-hit the Rockies 15-11. Their 2 errors and 3 wild pitches proved fatal.Embed from Getty Images
The Dodgers showed some life against 5th starter Chi Chi Gonzalez relieved Marquez in the 4th. Chi Chi ended up in this role as the Rockies won’t technically need a 5th starter until the end of April due to scheduling quirks. Problematically, he only lasted 2 innings, giving up 3 earned runs on 5 hits and a walk. This allowed the Dodgers to tie the game 4-4 before he departed after the 6th.
That Dodgers’ defensive ineptitude mixed with the Rox flashing their own leather, racking up 3 double-plays. Including the insane diving stop by Owings on a hot-shot up the middle by Austin Barnes in the 7th. He then shoveled the ball to Trevor Story who pulled a full pirouette and fired to first for the 2nd out. A true beauty of a defensive gem. Chris Owings filled up the stat sheet to go along with that Web Gem as he went 3-3 with a triple, 1 RBI, 2 steals, 3 runs, and a walk.Embed from Getty Images
The bottom of the 6th is where Colorado really took hold of the game and never let go, no matter how the Dodgers threatened. Colorado showed more of the small ball in their half of the 6th when they shot 4 singles and a fielder’s choice lead to 2 Rockies runs giving them a 6-4 lead. The 7th would see more of the same as the inning started with a walk to Charlie Blackmon and a ground-rule double by C.J. Cron. They would both score on wild pitches by Jimmy Nelson before the side was retired and put the Rockies up 8-4.
The 8th saw Dodgers pinch-hitter Zach McKinstry lead off the inning with a double, then eventually brought in on a Corey Seager singled to center drawing to within 8-5 of the Rox. The Dodgers would fizzle after that despite a good level of fight left in them. That fight would show why the last 3 outs are always the hardest.Embed from Getty Images
Daniel Bard would start the top of the 9th by allowing a Max Muncy triple. Not too scary with a 3-run lead, but this is not where it would end. Chris Taylor would follow with a walk putting runners on the corners. Then Edwin Rios went down on strikes looking. Bard would then clip Will Smith on his elbow protector to load the bases with only 1 out. Matt Beaty then would pitch hit, only to forget to swing, as he would watch 3 straight 99-mph fastballs zing by for Bard’s second K of the inning. This left the last matchup you wanted, Mookie Betts, bases loaded, bottom of the 9th, down by 3. Thankfully for Rockies Twitter sanity, Daniel entered the lion’s den and left with a new fur coat. Coaxing a weak liner by Betts to Owings to seal his first save of the season on Opening Day 2021.
Vs. L.A. Dodgers Friday, April 2 at 6:40 PM MST
Where to watch:
Denver Market: ATT Sportsnet Rocky Mountain
L.A. Market: Sportsnet Los Angeles