LOS ANGELES -- Trayce Thompson heard his name being chanted by the 48,000 people at Dodger Stadium, but wasn’t exactly sure what to do. His memories of curtain calls usually involved his teammates.
This time, however, things were different. Thompson had earned his curtain call after smacking his third homer of the night to cap off the Dodgers’ 10-1 win over the D-backs on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. The solo shot off Carlos Vargas gave Thompson eight RBIs on the night, making him just the eighth in Dodgers history to drive in at least eight runs in a game.
“Everyone kind of knows my journey, and it’s been a long journey,” Thompson said. “To be back here, it does mean a lot to me. Most of my Major League moments have been here, so it does mean a lot. I always have belief and conviction in myself, so I know I can have nights like this. I’m just thankful that tonight was one of those nights.”
A part of why the Dodgers had an unusually quiet winter was because the organization felt comfortable taking chances on some of the players who were already on the roster. In order for the Dodgers to reach their full potential in 2023, they will have to cash some of those bets in big ways.
One of the players the Dodgers are betting on this season is Thompson. Last summer, Thompson was the perfect acquisition for the Dodgers. They picked him up from the Tigers for cash and Thompson rewarded Los Angeles by hitting 13 homers and posting a .901 OPS in just 74 games.
By just about every measure, it was an incredibly successful season for Thompson. The one area where he struggled, however, was hitting left-handers, which was what the Dodgers acquired him to do. This season, Thompson’s path to extended playing time is to hit southpaws.
In his first at-bat of the season, Thompson proved that skill is still there, launching a grand slam off D-backs left-hander Madison Bumgarner in the first inning to give the Dodgers an early 5-0 lead.
“I know I can do it,” Thompson said. “It’s just a good way to start the year. Like I’ve said all along, I know I can do it. It’s still early. Still gotta go out, wake up tomorrow, go out and compete and help this team win a game. But I know I can do it. It’s just a good first game.”
With the way the Dodgers are built, they’ll be relying on matchups even more than in previous seasons. Thompson will get a start against a right-hander on Sunday, but it’ll be James Outman taking down the majority of turns against righties in center field. David Peralta will be slotted in against left-handers, with Jason Heyward also getting some starts. That leaves Thompson as the primary center fielder against lefties.
Given that opportunity on Saturday, he delivered.
“Trayce is one of the hardest-working guys I’ve been around,” said Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who allowed one run over six innings. “It’s really fun to see him have success after the journey he’s had. Can’t start any better than that. It’s great.”
Aside from taking a southpaw deep, Thompson showed he can still hit righties just fine, too. He crushed his second homer of the game off Kevin Ginkel in the sixth, a three-run shot. In the eighth, Thompson capped it off with the solo homer off Vargas.
In total, Thompson accumulated 1,266 feet of homers. His three homers have him tied for the league lead in just four at-bats. Also? All three dingers were hit at the exact same exit velocity -- 107.5 mph -- a first in a game tracked by Statcast.
How Thompson fares over the next couple of months will ultimately determine how much he plays. The same can be said about a few position players on the Dodgers. So far, so good on one of the big bets the Dodgers made this winter.
“What a special night,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “Couldn’t be happier for Trayce. Spring Training was a grind for him, but when the lights came on, it was the best swings he’s taken since last year. Hitting three homers in a game is something that is unforgettable and I just couldn’t be happier.”