The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies, the two clubs widely predicted to occupy the top spots in the National League West by season’s end, met for the first time in 2019 on Friday. The encounter, doubling as the Rockies’ home opener at Coors Field, was the first of 19 scheduled clashes and their first since meeting in a Game 163 at Dodger Stadium last October. The nearly four-hour meeting served as a snapshot of the teams’ divergent starts.
While the Dodgers masked another bullpen lapse with another assault on opposing pitchers in a 10-6 win, adding three more home runs to their record-setting start to the season, the Rockies (3-5) failed to capitalize on prime scoring opportunities.
Russell Martin became the 10th different Dodger to homer this season when he launched a 445-foot blast through the thin air in the sixth inning. Max Muncy, who fell a double short of the cycle, and Cody Bellinger also homered for the Dodgers (6-2). Bellinger’s three-run homer in the fifth inning extended the Dodgers’ franchise-record home-run streak to begin a season to eight games. Their 21 home runs this season are two fewer than the Rockies’ total number of runs scored — and the second-most through eight games in major-league history.
“We have a talented lineup,” Muncy said. “Up and down, even the guys on the bench, it’s a super-talented team and we’re very deep.”
The Rockies, who slugged three of their five home runs this season against the Dodgers bullpen’s two weakest links on Friday, had no problem making Dodgers right-hander Kenta Maeda labor. Problems surfaced once the bases were saturated; Colorado squandered chances with the bases loaded in the third and fifth innings and finished 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position against Maeda. The failures allowed Maeda to limit them to one run on four hits in five innings, despite walking four.
“It’s one of those things where you don’t always have it here,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Sometimes the ball does some things you don’t expect it to up here in altitude. But he made pitches when he needed to.”
It wasn’t until Brock Stewart took the mound for the Dodgers in the seventh inning that the Rockies’ offense awakened. Nolan Arenado’s RBI single and Trevor Story’s two-run home run — sandwiched around Rockies third base coach Stu Cole’s decision to wave Charlie Blackmon home from second base — chased Stewart with two outs. Stewart has allowed eight runs in four innings this season. His outing led to the Dodgers using four more relievers to finish the game.
The third, Joe Kelly, was inserted to close it out in the ninth inning but was removed after Blackmon hit a line drive back at him. Kelly knocked it down and secured the out, but the ball ricocheted off his right wrist and he exited. After the game, Roberts reported X-rays on Kelly’s wrist were negative.
“He’ll pick up a baseball tomorrow and see how it feels,” Roberts said.
Yimi Garcia relieved Kelly and gave up a home run to David Dahl, the first batter he faced. Two batters later, Story hit another home run with two outs. Garcia got the third out to end the game, but not before Kenley Jansen was forced to begin warming up in the bullpen.
The Dodgers manufactured a run in the third inning to strike first. Martin led off with a single and advanced to second base on Maeda’s sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, after Enrique Hernandez struck out, Corey Seager hit a flare to center field for a two-out, RBI single.
The Rockies appeared poised to erase the deficit and more in the bottom of the frame. It began with Tyler Anderson, the pitcher, hitting a leadoff single. Blackmon followed with another single before Maeda walked David Dahl to load the bases with no outs for Arenado, the Rockies’ best hitter. Arenado lofted a flyout to left field. Anderson tagged up and scored to tie the game.
It was a break for the Dodgers. Another one surfaced moments later when Story cracked a 100-mph line drive destined for the right-field corner until Muncy snatched it and stepped on first base for a pivotal inning-ending double play. The catch saved at least two runs. Muncy followed his defensive exploits with a solo home run against Anderson in the top of the fourth. The homer was Muncy’s second.
The Dodgers did not relent in the fifth. Hernandez ignited a four-run inning with a leadoff walk. Seager then singled and Justin Turner smacked a double off the wall in right-center field to score Hernandez. Seager, a few steps behind Hernandez, was held at third base by Dino Ebel. Two pitches later, Bellinger crushed a 90-mph fastball for his league-leading sixth home run and 14th, 15th, and 16th runs batted in this season. He is the third player in major-league history to compile six home runs and 16 runs batted in through eight games.
“I don’t think anybody expects to be like this,” said Bellinger, who hit his sixth home run last season in his 41st game on May 15. “I was feeling good in spring training and just wanted to do what I could to carry it over into the regular season.”
A.J. Pollock next singled to prompt Anderson’s exit after surrendering six runs in four-plus innings. An inning later, Martin, the Dodgers’ No. 8 hitter, belted his first home run as a Dodger since July 2010.
“When you barrel it and elevate it,” Roberts said, “good things are going to happen.”