Column: Dodgers meet mile-high expectations in season-opening win over Rockies

New Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel, right, is congratulated by catcher Will Smith after the final out in the season opener.
New Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel is congratulated by catcher Will Smith after recording the final out in the Dodgers’ 5-3, season-opening win over the Colorado Rockies.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)
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Gavin Lux flew. Walker Buehler spun. Freddie Freeman battled. The bullpen blasted.

Altitude met attitude Friday as the swaggering Dodgers began the 2022 season with a wry Rocky Mountain smile.

They’re going to be good. They’re going to be real good.

On a sunny afternoon at Coors Field, the Dodgers flexed every inch of their massive and versatile muscle to eventually smother the Colorado Rockies 5-3 in an opening-day victory with an ending that spoke of a belief.


With two outs and the Rockies’ Charlie Blackmon standing on second base, new Dodgers closer Craig Kimbrel struck out Kris Bryant on a flailing swing and then ... nothing.

No fist pump from the pitcher. No glove pounding from the others. The victors just sort of shrugged and jogged to the handshake line like ... well, isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?

It is. They are favored to win their second World Series title in three years. They are favored so heavily that manager Dave Roberts even guaranteed a championship.

The Dodgers had a five-run fourth inning, Walker Buehler made a solid start, and L.A. won its season opener 5-3 over the Colorado Rockies on Friday.

April 8, 2022

But still. It was cool to see the Dodgers’ offseason changes and tweaks come to life. It was neat to see them win a game in this home run palace without hitting a home run. It was fun to see them use five pitchers without giving up a home run. Roberts clearly agreed and afterward was smiling at the simplicity of it all.

“I thought we played a good game,” he said. “A complete baseball game.”

Granted, they played it against an absolutely awful baseball team, and many in the sellout crowd of 48,627 were gone by the time the shadows showed up.

Not surprisingly, the biggest cheers of the day were for a football player. The crowd went wild for new Denver Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, whose blazing ceremonial first pitch from the mound was the locals’ best delivery all afternoon.


Four innings into the season, there were already boos. Five innings into the season, the Rockies had already been through three pitchers. By the seventh-inning stretch, even their giant purple dinosaur mascot named Dinger seemed to lose his pop.

Buehler later described it in understated tones that echoed throughout the clubhouse.

“Good start for our team,” he said.

The Dodgers are going into 2022 opening day with perhaps one of the most prolific offensive squads ever assembled. Here’s what the lineup might look like.

April 8, 2022

No, it was great. Every spring maneuver worked. Most spring hopes were realized. Even though this start of a regular season was delayed a week because of the 99-day Major League Baseball lockout, the Dodgers were ready.

New staff ace Buehler, making his first opening-day start in place of Clayton Kershaw? Check.

In five innings — shortened work because of the shortened spring training — Buehler gave up two runs and four hits and struck out five. He finished by yielding just two hits to his final 16 batters and then yawned about it.

“I think to get off to a good start for our team is the biggest thing,” he said. “1-0 is better than 0-1.”

Dodgers play-by-play TV broadcaster Joe Davis will call the World Series beginning this season, replacing Joe Buck.

April 8, 2022

New first baseman Freeman, a former Atlanta Brave acquired in baseball’s most celebrated offseason signing? Check.


He drew a walk to keep alive the Dodgers’ five-run fourth inning, then hustled to third on Trea Turner’s single before eventually scoring on a wild pitch. He reached base two other times and made some nifty plays at first.

“Freddie, it’s not going to show up in the box score, but going first to third in a situation where there’s a wild pitch and scores an insurance run,” Roberts said. “Yeah, it’s a little microcosm of what we can do.”

A new Kenley Jansen-less bullpen rotation with holdovers Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen joined by Daniel Hudson and Kimbrel? Check.

The four relievers gave up just three hits in four innings and struck out seven. Even Kimbrel, the new closer acquired for outfielder AJ Pollock in a trade with the Chicago White Sox, survived in style. He worked out of his jam by punching out Bryant on three pitches.

Dodgers reliever Brusdar Graterol works against the Colorado Rockies in the sixth inning April 8, 2022.
Dodgers right-hander Brusdar Graterol works in the sixth inning. Four Dodgers relievers gave up one run over the final four innings and struck out seven.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

“To be able to deploy Brusdar, Treinen, Hudson and Kimbrel makes my job a lot easier,” Roberts said.


Finally, new regular Lux, a longtime prospect who started at second base and will finally see plentiful playing time because of Pollock’s departure? Check, check and check.

Lux reached base three times, scored a run and epitomized how the Dodgers can beat you with a great at-bat in that fourth inning.

“He’s finally understanding what he can do as a baseball player,” Roberts said of Lux. “He can do some special things.”

With one out in that fourth inning against Rockies starter Kyle Freeland and the Dodgers trailing 2-0, Will Smith singled to center field and Chris Taylor doubled off the right-field wall to set the stage for left-hander-versus-left-hander with Lux.

Lux fell behind Freeland with two quick strikes but then fought back to bang out a 2-and-2 single up the middle to score the first two runs of a season in which some believe the Dodgers could score as many as 900.

What happened next was nearly as impressive. Lux sprinted from first on Mookie Betts’ ensuing line drive into the left-field corner. Lux rounded third and kept going, forcing rushing shortstop José Iglesias into botching the relay catch, allowing him to use a sprawling slide to score.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Gavin Lux slides safely into home plate to score on a double hit by Mookie Betts.
The Dodgers’ Gavin Lux slides safely into home to score on a fourth-inning double by Mookie Betts.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Said Lux of the at-bat: “Control the strike zone, wait out for a good pitch to hit and yeah, that’s my game for sure.”

Said Lux of the sprint and slide: “I think I ran out of gas when I hit second base and I stumbled all around. It wasn’t fun.”

He laughed, because on this day anyway, even when the Dodgers fell on their face, they won.

Cody Bellinger’s struggles at the plate create complications for a Dodgers team that values his fielding prowess. How much time will they give him?

April 8, 2022

The only notable thing that wasn’t new and shiny was Cody Bellinger, whose notable struggles from last season continued at least one game into this new season. He was hitless in four at-bats, failed with six runners on base and misplayed a Bryant fly ball in center field that bounced off the wall for a double.

The Dodgers are surely worried about him, but they’re going to show patience here. They’re so deep, they can afford patience. They’re so deep, they’re just thrilled at a chance to show it.


“It was good to get back out there,” Turner said.

No, it was great.