LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers showed Mookie Betts how good they are on Opening Night, and vice versa.
Clayton Kershaw was scratched from a delayed opening start and the Dodgers just slid in rookie Dustin May to light up the radar gun with an occasionally dazzling 4 1/3 innings. The bullpen threw blanks the rest of the way, No. 6 hitter Enrique Hernández drove in five runs with four hits and despite all that’s different this year, the Dodgers are in first place again after an 8-1 rout of the rival Giants on Thursday night.
“We’re deep,” Betts said after his winning debut. “Our lineup is just tough to get through without getting hit around a little bit. We battled and grinded through the whole day and we put up some runs. With the offense we have, we should win a lot of games if they only put up one. Everybody contributes, not one person we rely on, everybody passing the baton. A full-team effort. Can’t ask for anything better than we have here.”
They won it at Dodger Stadium with a five-run seventh inning triggered by Betts. With one out, he lined a single to left and asked for the ball.
“It’s a new chapter in life,” said Betts, who was signed on Wednesday to a 12-year extension. “My first hit as a Dodger -- definitely got to keep that. Kept the lineup card. Something I’ll always remember.”
“I think the swing point, obviously, was the play at the plate with Betts,” Giants manager Gabe Kapler said. “If that out is recorded at the plate, I think we're talking about a much different game. That's the way baseball works.”
Little things like baserunning continued to matter, as Bellinger extended a rundown long enough to advance two runners before Hernández’s two-run double. Hernández blew it open with a two-run home run in the eighth inning to join Joe Morgan (1978) as the only second baseman with five or more RBIs on Opening Day since the stat became official in 1920.
“That was the approach I took tonight and it paid off,” said Hernández, who chided himself for bloopers in his first three at-bats. “Get jammed and throw a grenade out there and hope they land. Then find the barrel a little more. I have a quick bat and every time I swing it looks max effort. I’ve got to constantly remind myself to slow down.”
And there was May, the No. 2 prospect in the organization who was told on Tuesday he’d be optioned out, told on Wednesday he’d probably get the emergency start, and took the ball on Thursday to be the first Dodgers rookie starting pitcher on Opening Day since Fernando Valenzuela filled in for an injured Jerry Reuss in 1981.
Amped early, May touched 100 mph, and the only run he allowed reached base on a bunt single in the third inning. The Giants loaded the bases with no outs, but May limited the damage to one run.
“He wasn’t nervous or intimidated by the amount of cardboards we had in the stands,” Hernandez joked. “Around the third inning he had thrown like six balls. He throws really hard and it’s not that easy to have command when the ball is moving that much.”
May, 22, said he had enough warning for the assignment to sleep well Wednesday night and enjoy the moment.
“It’s the kind of thing you dream about, like a debut,” said May. “I was anxious, just not being in a game scenario since October. The anxiousness of wanting to get started, but once the first pitch was thrown I was all good.”