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More Coors Field weirdness: Zach McKinstry’s inside-the-park homer lifts Dodgers

The Dodgers' Zach McKinstry, right, runs around third base on the way to notching an inside-the-park home run April 3, 2021.
The Dodgers’ Zach McKinstry, right, runs around third base on the way to an inside-the-park home run in the eighth inning in Denver. At left is third base coach Dino Ebel.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The oddities were subdued at Coors Field for seven innings in the Dodgers’ 6-5 win over Colorado on Saturday night. A slab of plexiglass prevented Max Muncy from making a catch in foul territory in the sixth inning and a fountain delay slowed the game in the seventh, but there weren’t any confusing home-runs-turned-singles or appearances by cats.

Then Zach McKinstry lifted a flyball to left field in the eighth inning.

The ball was destined to land over the wall for the Dodgers’ first home run of the season — 26 innings into this series played a mile high — until Raimel Tapia jumped at the wall and pulled the ball back. It was a highlight play, the kind that should’ve saved the Rockies a run late in a tie game.

But Tapia didn’t realize he kept the ball in the ballpark. The Rockies left fielder was on the ground, writhing in pain, as the ball squirted away. McKinstry noticed halfway to second base.

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“He was pretty far from the ball,” McKinstry said, “and I was like, oh, maybe I have a little shot here to get around the bases.”

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Zach McKinstry’s inside-the-park home run for the Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.

Tapia realized his mistake too late and McKinstry didn’t stop running until he excitedly crossed the plate for a go-ahead inside-the-park home run.

The homer was the first of McKinstry’s career. The rookie utility man, who entered the game in the seventh inning, became the first Dodger to hit an inside-the-parker for his first home run since Duke Snider recorded the first of his 407 home runs in 1948.

It was the Dodgers’ first inside-the-park home run since Chris Taylor in 2017. The Dodgers’ first home run this season came on their 41st hit a mile above sea level.

“Zach is a very unemotional guy,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He controls emotion. But to see him, after he crossed home plate, come towards the dugout with all that excitement and energy was fun. For me, as a manager, those are things that I‘ll remember forever.”

Tapia was on the right side of confusion at the wall in Thursday’s season opener when he failed to rob Cody Bellinger’s home run. It should’ve been a two-run homer for Bellinger, but Justin Turner thought Tapia caught the ball and ran back to first base after rounding second. He passed Bellinger, who was ruled out and credited with an RBI single.

The Dodgers added another run in the eighth inning on a double from Taylor. It proved to be the difference after Trevor Story peppered the wall for an RBI double in the bottom of the inning.

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Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen works against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning April 3, 2021, in Denver.
Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen works against the Colorado Rockies in the ninth inning. Jensen recorded five outs and got the save in the 6-5 win.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

On the mound, Walker Buehler was stingy for six innings. The right-hander limited Colorado to two runs on four hits with four strikeouts and no walks. Kenley Jansen completed the pitching effort with a sharp five-out save in his season debut. The right-hander touched 94 mph, showcased encouraging movement, and peppered the strike zone with his 24 pitches.

“I felt great,” Jansen said.

On the other side, the Dodgers offense was unable to solve Rockies starter Jon Gray. The right-hander held them to three hits and a walk through five scoreless innings before the Dodgers caught a break when Gray was pulled after giving up a double to Corey Seager because, the Rockies later announced, of cramping.

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Yency Almonte relieved Gray and retired the next two batters but couldn’t shut the door. Muncy singled on a groundball to third baseman Josh Fuentes to drive in a run. Three batters later, Austin Barnes blooped a two-run single to left field to give the Dodgers a one-run lead.

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Highlights from the Dodgers’ 6-5 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday night in Denver.

The seventh inning began with an unusual delay when Gavin Lux stepped to the plate to lead off and noticed the fountains, activated between innings, behind the center-field wall were still splashing.

He asked that they be turned off to clear his line of sight. It took a few minutes, but the fountains were turned off.

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Lux then roped his second triple of the series. Moments later, he scored on Seager’s third hit of the game and eighth hit of the season.

Seager, picking up where he left off in October, is batting .667 with four walks to begin season. He and Bellinger aren’t scheduled to start in Sunday’s series finale before the Dodgers travel to Oakland.

If the first three games are any indication, it’ll be another strange day.

“To expect the unexpected, I guess,” Roberts said, “is what we should expect.”


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