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Game recap: Dodgers defeat Giants 8-1 in season opener

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Mookie Betts kneels during the national anthem as his Dodgers teammates stand.
Mookie Betts (near home plate) kneels during the national anthem as his Dodgers teammates stand before Thursday’s season opener against the Giants.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

After a four-month delay because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Dodgers open the season with an 8-1 victory over the Giants at Dodger Stadium.

Dodgers defeat Giants, 8-1

Kike Hernandez hits a two-run home run in the eighth to complete a four-hit, five-RBI (new career-high) night, tacking on the final insurance runs in the Dodgers’ 8-1 win. Brusdar Graterol finishes the game with a scoreless ninth.

It’s the team’s second consecutive opening day win with seven runs.

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Eighth inning: Dodgers 6, Giants 1

Adam Kolarek, the left-handed specialist who is adapting to MLB’s new rule requiring relievers to face at least three batters or pitch to the end of a half-inning, looked sharp in his season debut. The southpaw needed two pitches to get two outs in the seventh, then retired the side in the eighth, including two strikeouts.

His 1 2/3-inning appearance is longer than any of the 26 appearances he made with the Dodgers last year after being acquired mid-season from Tampa Bay.

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End of seventh inning: Dodgers 6, Giants 1

Joc Pederson singles in the fourth inning for the Dodgers against the Giants.
Joc Pederson singles in the fourth inning for the Dodgers against the Giants on Thursday.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Mookie Betts scores the go-ahead run for the Dodgers in the bottom of the seventh. After reaching base with a one-out single (his first as a Dodger), Betts advanced to third on a Cody Bellinger double and raced home on a ground ball from Justin Turner, beating out a tag at the plate.

The Giants challenged the call that Betts was safe, but the call was upheld.

The Dodgers tack onto their lead later in the inning. Although Bellinger was tagged out in a run-down between third and home, Kike Hernandez drives in two runs with an RBI single, his third hit and second and third RBI of the night. Three of the Dodgers’ four runs tonight have come with two outs.

After Hernandez’s two-run hit, Joc Pederson and AJ Pollock drew back-to-back walks to load the bases. Austin Barnes then drove in a run with an infield single aided by Pollock beating a throw at second before Max Muncy walked with the bases juiced to plate another run.

Five runs scored before Betts struck out to end the inning.

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End of sixth inning: Dodgers 1, Giants 1

Pedro Baez, who reported late to the Dodgers’ summer training, is replaced after retiring all four batters he faced in his relief appearance. He struck out two batters and needed only 20 pitches (13 strikes).

Left-hander Adam Kolarek comes in with one out in the top of the seventh.

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End of fifth inning: Dodgers 1, Giants 1

The Giants replaced starter Johnny Cueto (four innings, five hits, one earned run, one walk, three strikeouts) to begin the fifth inning with reliever Drew Smyly. Mookie Betts reached base on an error and Cody Bellinger walked, but Smyly struck out Corey Seager with two outs to strand runners on the corners and keep the game tied.

So far tonight, the Dodgers are only one for five with runners in scoring position and have left seven men on base.

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Dustin May exits after 4 1/3 innings for Dodgers

Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May delivers to San Francisco's Wilmer Flores during the first inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Dustin May’s opening day start ends after 4 1/3 innings. He leaves runners on the corners as left-hander Caleb Ferguson enters the game. May threw 60 pitches, 46 for strikes. He mixed in more offspeed stuff in the last couple innings, including a curveball to strike out Wilmer Flores in his last at-bat of the night.

Ferguson escapes the jam, inducing a groundout from Pablo Sandoval that turns into a double-play after Travis Heineman gets caught in a rundown between third and home.

Dustin May’s line is now final: 4 1/3 innings, seven hits, one earned run, four strikeouts, 60 pitches.

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Dave Roberts gives update on Clayton Kershaw’s back stiffness

Clayton Kershaw was forced to sit out his scheduled start Thursday because of back stiffness, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts described the issue as “minimal” during an in-game interview.

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End of fourth inning: Dodgers 1, Giants 1

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws to the plate.
Dodgers starting pitcher Dustin May throws to the plate during the first inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

The Dodgers tie the game in the bottom of the fourth with a two-out rally. Corey Seager recorded his first double of the season, slapping a slider the other way into the left-center field gap. Then Kike Hernandez drove him home with a bloop single into shallow left, his second hit of the night.

The Dodgers squandered a chance to take the lead later in the inning when Austin Barnes grounded into a fielder’s choice with the bases loaded and two outs.

Still, after Johnny Cueto needed only 38 pitches to get through the first three innings, the Giants starter threw 25 in the fourth.

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End of third inning: Giants 1, Dodgers 0

Their second time through the order, the Giants scratch across one run after Travis Heineman bunts aboard to lead off the inning, back-to-back singles from Mike Yastrzemski and Wilmer Flores and a sac fly from Pablo Sandoval.

Dustin May, however, worked out of the jam from there. After three innings, he has only thrown 40 pitches. His average velocity so far: 95.8 mph

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End of second inning: Dodgers 0, Giants 0

In the bottom of the second, Justin Turner is the first Dodger to reach base in 2020 and Kike Hernandez is the first to record a hit. However, the Dodgers couldn’t take advantage. Turner was retired on a double-play groundout from Corey Seager, and Hernandez was stranded as Joc Pederson grounded out to end the inning.

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End of first inning: Dodgers 0, Giants 0

Mookie Betts’ first at-bat as a Dodger ends in a strikeout. Johnny Cueto got the new Dodger to swing through a changeup. The first of his many, many Dodger at-bats was part of a one-two-three inning that ended on a Cody Bellinger flyout.

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Dustin May gets out of jam in first inning

End of top of the 1st: Giants 0, Dodgers 0


Dustin May stranded two runners in the top of the first, working around an error by shortstop Corey Seager that began the inning and a two-out single from the Giants’ Alex Dickerson.

All 12 of the 22-year-old right-hander’s pitches in the inning were sinkers, reaching as fast as 99 mph.

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Mookie Betts takes a knee during national anthem before Dodgers’ season opener

Dodgers Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and Max Muncy kneel.
Dodgers teammates (from left) Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and Max Muncy kneel during a moment of silence before the national anthem. Betts took a knee during the national anthem while his teammates stood.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts kneeled during the national anthem before the Dodgers’ season opener against the San Francisco Giants on Thursday night, joining a growing number of players around baseball this week choosing to protest racial injustice and police brutality with the act.

In addition to Betts, San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler and several of his players also knelt during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which followed a pregame ceremony promoting social justice.

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Dustin May’s opening day connection to Dodgers legend Fernando Valenzuela

Dustin May delivers a pitch.
Dustin May is starting for the Dodgers in the team’s season opener against the Giants.
(Harry How / Getty Images)

Rookie Dustin May is getting the start for the Dodgers in their season opener against the San Francisco Giants after Clayton Kershaw was placed on the injury list because of back stiffness.

It’s been quite a while since a rookie got the opening-day nod. Thirty-nine years ago the Dodgers began their 1981 World Series title season by witnessing the birth of one of the greatest phenomena in the L.A. sports history: Fernandomania.

Fernando Valenzuela went on to become one of the greatest pitchers in Dodgers history after his impressive rookie start. Will we see something equally as memorable from May tonight?

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Chico talks about being the star of the Dodgers’ summer (so far)

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VIDEO | 04:59
Chico: the making of a Dodger legend

Francisco Herrera, the man known as Chico, has been a Dodgers clubhouse attendant since 2008. Here’s how he rose to summer camp stardom with the team.

Before the season begins in earnest, it’s only fitting that The Times recognizes the true star of the summer (so far) for the Dodgers.

The man every Dodgers fan now knows as Chico showcased a pinpoint cannon of an arm and a sometimes legendary fielding prowess in keeping Dodgers players honest about their major-league credentials during summer training.

Francisco Herrera, better known as Chico, is on the Dodgers’ payroll but not as a player. He’s been a clubhouse attendant — a clubbie in baseball speak — since 2008, initially in a part-time role and now in a full-time capacity.

He recently spoke to The Times about his ascension into Dodgers lore.

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Mookie Betts’ mega-deal with Dodgers guts Red Sox faithful: ‘He’s never coming back’

Mookie Betts during his final game with the Boston Red Sox on Sept. 29, 2019.
(Maddie Meyer / Getty Images)

Mookie Betts’ name is shouted with wide smiles in Los Angeles these days, a superstar transplant of hopeful renown who has conjured promise in the present and optimism for the future.

In Boston, the departed son is spoken of through gritted teeth, his recollections now only a reminder of dashed desires and broken dreams.

So deep is the wound this winter’s trade between the Dodgers and Red Sox left in the heart of New England, pain felt anew when Betts signed a 12-year extension on Wednesday to stay in L.A. for what feels like forever.

“When he was first traded, there was a lot of anger,” said Julian McWilliams, who covers the Red Sox for the Boston Globe. “Yesterday … it put some finality to it. He’s never coming back here.

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MLB and players agree to expand playoffs to 16 teams

Dodger Stadium in March.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

This could be the year the Dodgers win the World Series — or this could be the year they put up the best record in the major leagues and get bounced out of the playoffs because they lost two games to a .500 team.

On Thursday, in the final hours before the start of the 60-game regular season, owners and the players’ union agreed on the expansion of the postseason from 10 teams to 16.

That means more than half the teams in the major leagues will qualify for the playoffs this year, with every team slotted into a best-of-three first round. The champions and second-place teams of each division would qualify, along with the two remaining teams with the best records, and the eight teams in each league would be seeded by record.

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Justin Turner shares his thoughts on opening day finally arriving

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner laughs during team training at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner laughs during team training at Dodger Stadium earlier this month.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Third baseman Justin Turner is glad to be playing games that count toward the Dodgers’ World Series title aspirations after the coronavirus outbreak nearly wiped out the 2020 MLB season.

Speaking to reporters before Thursday’s season opener against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium, Turner talked about what it means to finally be back playing baseball that matters.

With only 60 games to play before an expanded postseason, the pressure will be on Turner and the Dodgers to win early and often to solidify their chances of finally winning the franchise’s first title since 1988.

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Back injury forces Clayton Kershaw to miss opening day; Dustin May will start

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw looks on during spring training baseball.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

The Dodgers placed Clayton Kershaw, their opening day starter, on the injured list with back stiffness Thursday hours before taking the field to begin their season against the San Francisco Giants.

The club recalled right-hander Dustin May, who was optioned earlier in the day. He will start Thursday, becoming the first rookie to make an opening day start for the Dodgers since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw, who was scheduled to make his franchise-record ninth opening day start, hurt his back in the weight room Tuesday. Kershaw went to Dodger Stadium on Thursday for treatment before the club decided to place him on the injured list.

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Self-described country kid Mookie Betts relishes chance to ‘bring a ring’ to L.A.

Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts’ first national television appearance this year came on a Sunday in May. He should have been two months into his first season with the Dodgers, batting leadoff and playing right field in his final audition before striking gold in free agency. A Sunday in May should’ve been another ballgame in the sun.

But Betts wasn’t on a baseball field. From his home in Tennessee, he was talking about “Space Jam,” a movie released when he was 4 years old, during a 15-second clip of Episode 8 of “The Last Dance,” the hyped series on Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls.

At that point, there was a chance Betts would never play a meaningful game for the Dodgers.

The novel coronavirus outbreak had forced Major League Baseball to suspend operations March 12, a month to the day after Betts was introduced at Dodger Stadium. Talks between the league and the players’ union to hold a shortened 2020 season weren’t progressing two months later.

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Starting lineup for Dodgers vs. Giants

Here’s the starting lineup for the Dodgers’ season opener against the Giants, which is scheduled to start at 7:08 p.m. PDT.

Dodgers opening day lineup.
(Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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Weird conditions could make winning the World Series this year especially rewarding

Lost in the debate about the legitimacy of this year’s World Series is that it’s already been decided that not every championship is created equal.

Consider the title won by the Houston Astros in 2017.

Maybe commissioner Rob Manfred protected Astros doofus owner Jim Crane and didn’t officially strip his team of that World Series trophy. And maybe an asterisk isn’t affixed to the line in the record book that lists the Astros as champions.

Doesn’t matter.

The Astros cheated and everyone knows. Their championship has about as much validity as the home run records Barry Bonds broke with the cream and the clear slathered on his body.

Compare the Astros’ title to the Washington Nationals’ last year and there’s no question: The Nationals’ is more credible.

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Dodgers players wearing Black Lives Matter shirts

Before tonight’s season opener against the San Francisco Giants, some Dodgers players were spotted wearing Black Lives Matter shirts.

The Dodgers aren’t the only ones who are pursuing social justice initiatives. Every player and coach took a knee during a moment of silence before the national anthem prior to the New York Yankees-Washington Nationals game on Thursday.

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Unseating the Dodgers from atop the NL West would take strength opponents lack

Cody Bellinger is greeted at home plate by Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and Justin Turner.
Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger, center, is greeted by teammates Mookie Betts, Max Muncy and Justin Turner after hitting a grand slam in an exhibition against the Diamondbacks.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Strap in for the National League West Division’s crazy race for second place. In baseball’s most lopsided division, it might be the most compelling story line during this pandemic-shortened season.

The Dodgers, of course, are the heavy favorites to repeat as division champions for the eighth year in a row. Fangraphs projections have them winning the division by five games (the equivalent of almost 15 in a normal season). In Las Vegas sportsbooks, no other MLB club comes close to the Dodgers’ division-winning odds.

Most pundits make it sound as if the NL West’s other four teams will be driving go-karts while Dave Roberts’ squad speeds away in a Maserati. Entering the season, no obvious challenger is visible in the rearview mirror.

The Arizona Diamondbacks, last year’s runners-up, are somewhere between a rebuild and a restock, fielding a balanced lineup that has managed winning records in three consecutive seasons, but lacking the firepower that might be necessary to keep pace with L.A.

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Dodgers fans, welcome to the Mookie Betts era

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

As a ceremonial first pitch, it was a 100-mph fastball.

As a swatch of decorative bunting, it was downright dazzling.

Hours before what will be an odd Opening Day in a pandemic-vacated Chavez Ravine, the Dodgers created their own pomp and circumstance by boldly putting a new spin on the opening introductions.

Batting first, Mookie Betts, forever.

Believe it. Celebrate it. Even if it’s only from the front of your living room TV, stand up and cheer it.

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Meet the 2020 Los Angeles Dodgers

Here’s the Dodgers’ 30-man roster for opening day against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium.

The roster includes 16 pitchers, six infielders, six outfielders, and two catchers — Gavin Lux and Dustin May aren’t among the players who made the roster.

Right-handed pitchers

Pedro Baez

Dodgers pitcher Pedro Baez.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Walker Buehler

Dodgers pitcher Walker Buehler.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Dylan Floro

Dodgers pitcher Dylan Floro.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Brusdar Graterol

Dodgers pitcher Brusdar Graterol.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Kenley Jansen

Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Joe Kelly

Dodgers pitcher Joe Kelly
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Dustin May

Dodgers pitcher Dustin May.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Dennis Santana

Dodgers pitcher Dennis Santana.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Ross Stripling

Dodgers pitcher Ross Stripling.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Blake Treinen

Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Left-handed pitchers

Scott Alexander

Dodgers pitcher Scott Alexander.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Caleb Ferguson

Dodgers pitcher Caleb Ferguson.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Clayton Kershaw

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Adam Kolarek

Dodgers pitcher Adam Kolarek.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Jake McGee

Dodgers pitcher Jake McGee.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Julio Urías

Dodgers pitcher Julio Urias.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Alex Wood

Dodgers pitcher Alex Wood.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Catchers

Austin Barnes

Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Will Smith

Dodgers catcher Will Smith.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Infielders

Matt Beaty

Dodgers infielder Matt Beaty.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Kiké Hernández

Dodgers utility player Kike Hernandez.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Max Muncy

Dodgers infielder Max Muncy
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Edwin Ríos

Dodgers infielder Edwin Rios.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Corey Seager

Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Justin Turner

Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Outfielders

Cody Bellinger

Dodgers first baseman/outfielder Cody Bellinger.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Mookie Betts

Dodgers right fielder Mookie Betts.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Terrance Gore

Recent call-up Terrance Gore makes a bigger difference on the basepaths than he does in the batter's box for the Royals.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Joc Pederson

Dodgers first baseman Joc Pederson.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

AJ Pollock

Dodgers outfielder AJ Pollock.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

Chris Taylor

Dodgers utility player Chris Taylor.
(Kent Nishimura; Allison Hong / Los Angeles Times)

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Times writers predict how the Dodgers and Angels will fare this season

As the 60-game MLB season gets underway, Los Angeles Times Dodgers writer Jorge Castillo and Angels writer Maria Torres break down their respective teams and how they’ll do in this shortened season.

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