Champs' quest to repeat starts on wrong foot

April 2nd, 2021

Throughout the spring, the Dodgers kept expressing their hunger to try and become the first team since the 2000 Yankees to repeat as champions. Snapping a 32-year World Series drought was last year’s challenge. This year’s challenge will be to win a title in a full 162-game season, all while having a massive target on their backs.

Some players talked about the fact that they weren’t able to enjoy all the perks that come with being World Series champions. There was no championship parade down the streets of Los Angeles, no champagne celebration in the clubhouse. They also didn’t get a chance to celebrate at their home ballpark.

With arguably the most talented roster in the Majors, the Dodgers have all the pieces in place to accomplish their goal this season. But they’ll have to wait at least another day for their first win of the season, as their title defense began with a sloppy 8-5 loss against the Rockies on Thursday at Coors Field.

“I think today, honestly, we just didn’t play a good baseball game,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I think all the way around, we didn’t play well. We gave away too many bases. I thought the at-bat quality was good, but all the other parts of the game just weren’t clean.”

started his franchise-leading ninth Opening Day with the Dodgers, but the left-hander wasn’t very sharp on Thursday as he had been in his previous eight. Kershaw, who came into Thursday’s game with a 5-1 record and a 1.05 ERA on Opening Day, allowed six runs (five earned) on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

“I don’t think his slider was really sharp, but he still gave us a chance to win a baseball game,” Roberts said. “I thought there were some pitches that he would like to have back, there were some balls that found some holes.”

The Rockies attacked Kershaw early in the count and the veteran struck out just two batters in the loss. Colorado took 43 swings against Kershaw and only swung and missed five times. Kershaw recorded five swings-and-misses or fewer once last season. As Roberts mentioned, the slider was a big reason why Kershaw struggled Thursday, as the Rockies recorded five hits against the pitch.

“It wasn’t great,” a frustrated Kershaw said after his outing.

What exactly didn’t he like?

“The runs that were scored,” he said.

But while Kershaw wasn’t at his best on Thursday, the Dodgers’ defense didn't help out the future Hall of Famer and wasn’t very sharp all afternoon. made a costly error on a routine ground ball in the fifth that extended the Rockies’ inning. There were a few wild pitches in the game, and a couple of other close plays that weren’t made. One wild pitch forced catcher to come out of the game due to a cut right hand as a run scored in the seventh. The Dodgers expect Barnes to be ready to catch on Saturday.

“I think initially, he was scared,” Roberts said. “Handful of spikes in his hand. There were some cuts, but I think he’ll be fine.”

The Dodgers’ offense was able to plate five runs on 15 hits, and while Roberts was pleased with the at-bats, the club was unable to take advantage of big opportunities. Los Angeles went 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position and left 14 runners on base. lined out with the bases loaded to end the game. They also had what may prove to be one of the wackiest plays of the season go against them, when ’s apparent homer was ruled a run-scoring single and out after he passed on the basepaths.

The Dodgers have 161 more opportunities to get things right and accomplish their ultimate goal. But Thursday was a reminder that they’re going to get every team’s best punch, and they’re going to have to be ready for it.

“You’re going to have games like this,” Roberts said. “But still, even at the end of the day, we had the tying run at first. Our club, for the most part, doesn’t have too many games like this.”