On Opening Day, 1 inning showed what LA is all about
DENVER -- The Dodgers enter the 2022 season with hefty expectations. They’re no longer the defending champions, a title they wore all of last season. But with the highest payroll in baseball and a star-studded roster, they come into the year with a sizable target on their backs.
A lot of that talent is on offense. Despite losing Corey Seager in free agency, the Dodgers found a way to get even better, signing five-time All-Star Freddie Freeman to a six-year, $162 million deal.
With three MVPs in the everyday lineup and over a half-dozen former All-Stars, the Dodgers have assembled an offense that has the potential to be one of the best in the history of the game. They didn’t waste any time showing off their prowess during a five-run fourth inning in the 5-3 Opening Day win over the Rockies at Coors Field.
“It should be stressful every inning that you play our club,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “[The fourth inning was] a little microcosm of what we can do.”
Walker Buehler was on the mound for the Dodgers, his first career Opening Day start. The right-hander allowed two runs and struck out five over five innings. He provided plenty to give the Dodgers a chance to win. But on Friday, all the attention was on the lineup that carried all the hype during the spring.
The early results were positive for the Dodgers. Seven of the nine starters recorded at least one hit. Los Angeles had at least one baserunner in each of the first six innings. It was a perfect illustration that this lineup isn’t just talented, but it also runs deep.
“Obviously we sort of take pride in passing the baton onto the next guy,” said Dodgers utility man Chris Taylor. “One through nine, we have a deep lineup and we can all have good at-bats. That’s when we’re at our best.”
In the fourth, the Dodgers showed off their firepower and ability to strike quickly. After Rockies left-hander Kyle Freeland kept the Dodgers mostly quiet over the first three innings, recording six strikeouts in the process, Los Angeles answered back in a big way with a five-run frame.
Will Smith and Taylor got the rally going with a one-out single and double, respectively. After a Cody Bellinger popout, Gavin Lux, the team’s No. 9 hitter, slapped a two-run single into center field to even the game at two runs apiece.
“Just not trying to do too much,” Lux said. “I’ve had good conversations with our hitting coaches and if you look at the guys one through eight in front of me, I don’t have to do a whole lot. I think for me, it’s about being who I am and not trying to do too much like I have in the past.”
Lux, the team’s former top prospect, reached base safely three times on Friday. He’ll get most of the opportunities at second base and left field. His emergence as an everyday player would give the Dodgers yet another boost.
“I do think this is the best I’ve seen him as far as really understanding who he is as a Major League player,” Roberts said. “For him to continue to take good at-bats shows the growth. I’m really excited with where he’s at and where he’s going to be this year.”
Following Lux, Mookie Betts gave the Dodgers the lead with an RBI double. Freeman walked and Trea Turner tacked on with an RBI single, extending his regular-season hitting streak to 20 games, the longest active streak in the Majors. All nine Dodgers hitters came up to bat in the fourth, with the fifth run coming in on a wild pitch.
The Dodgers were held quiet for most of the game. Yet they still found a way to erupt in an inning and win. One inning served as a glimpse of what this lineup can do. It was yet another reminder why the expectation for the 2022 Dodgers is World Series or bust. They’re looking to embrace that.
“It’s nice to have expectations,” Freeman said before the game. “That means you guys think we should win. So that’s a good thing. We’ve got a good team. You know when you put on a Dodger uniform, there’s expectations.”