Freddie Freeman, Dodgers display depth in big inning, beat Rockies on opening day

The Dodgers' Freddie Freeman heads to first base after getting hit by a third-inning pitch.
Freddie Freeman heads to first after getting hit by a third-inning pitch. The new Dodgers star was one for three with a walk and scored a run in the Dodgers’ 5-3 win at Colorado.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

On the first day of the season, Kyle Freeland became the Dodgers’ first victim.

For three innings Friday afternoon, the Colorado Rockies left-hander was cruising through his start against the Dodgers’ star-studded lineup.

He had six strikeouts. He stranded each of the four runners who reached base. Despite a single from Will Smith and a double from Chris Taylor in the top of the fourth, Freeland was one strike away from getting through another inning unscathed.

But then the Dodgers’ offense awoke from its winter slumber, roaring to life for the first time this season, and what is certain to not be the last.

A strong performance by Walker Buehler coupled with Gavin Lux’s plate heroics propel the Dodgers to a 5-3 season-opening win over the Colorado Rockies.

April 8, 2022

Gavin Lux sent a two-run single up the middle to erase the Rockies’ two-run lead. Mookie Betts put the Dodgers in front with an RBI double in the next at-bat, scoring a hustling Lux all the way from first.

And even after Freddie Freeman’s walk chased Freeland from the game, the pitcher was charged with two more runs when reliever Tyler Kinley gave up an RBI single to Trea Turner before throwing a run-scoring wild pitch.

The five-run explosion sparked a 5-3 opening-day win for the Dodgers in front of a sold-out crowd of 48,627 at Coors Field. It also offered a glimpse of how good the team’s lineup could be — a 15-minute sequence that flashed its tantalizing potential.

“We’re so good at grinding at-bats out and just wearing on teams’ pitchers,” Lux said.

Added manager Dave Roberts: “It’s a little microcosm of what we can do.”

Will Smith, left, congratulates Chris Taylor after they scored on Gavin Lux's single in a five-run fourth inning.
Will Smith, left, congratulates Chris Taylor after they scored on Gavin Lux’s single in a five-run fourth inning for the Dodgers.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Dodgers are entering this season with sky-high expectations. They are a team that, despite winning a World Series just 18 months ago, still has “something to prove,” in Roberts’ words.

Such ambitions have been driven in large part by the talent in their lineup, which included seven All-Stars and three former most valuable players.

Favored to win a second World Series championship in three years, the Dodgers checked all the boxes in a 5-3 victory at Colorado to begin the season.

April 8, 2022

All spring, they acknowledged how dangerous they could be, imagining the impact of Freeman’s free-agent signing, better health from Betts, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy, and the return of almost every other key piece from a group that ranked fourth in scoring last year.

Roberts went as far as guaranteeing the Dodgers would win the World Series.

“For me to put it out there and believe that this is what’s going to happen, I think it’s very powerful,” Roberts said this week. “It raises the bar for myself and everyone that’s a part of the Dodgers.”

In Game No. 1, they cleared the bar with ease.

After the Rockies scored twice on three two-strike hits in the second, Walker Buehler found a groove in his first opening-day start, completing a five-inning, five-strikeout outing without yielding another run.

Dodgers starter Walker Buehler delivers a pitch against the Colorado Rockies in the first inning April 8, 2022.
The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler gave up two runs in five innings and earned the win in his first opening-day start.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Dodgers’ bullpen was hardly tested the rest of the way. Brusdar Graterol stranded a walk in the sixth. Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson each posted a scoreless inning. New closer Craig Kimbrel gave up a run in the ninth, on an RBI double to Charlie Blackmon, before striking out Kris Bryant to earn his first Dodgers save

And even though they didn’t add to their lead after the fourth inning, the Dodgers finished the day with production from almost all parts of the lineup.

Seven players recorded a hit, with Bellinger and Justin Turner the only exceptions. Taylor and Smith reached twice, while Freeman picked up his first Dodgers hit while also getting aboard on a walk and being hit by a pitch. And in a reminder of the batting order’s depth, Lux reached base three times from the No. 9 spot, sandwiching a couple of walks around his game-tying hit.

“They were really quality [at-bats] up and down [the lineup],” Roberts said. “We got some big hits when we needed to.”

That’s what the Dodgers hope to make their identity. They believe they’re capable of wearing out pitching staffs, stringing together stressful at-bats and hanging crooked numbers on the board with regularity.

“We were able to shift the momentum there,” Taylor said of the fourth inning. “Take advantage of some mistakes.”

Second baseman Gavin Lux, right, and third baseman Max Muncy celebrate the Dodgers' win April 8, 2022.
Second baseman Gavin Lux, right, and third baseman Max Muncy are in a joyful mood after the Dodgers’ win. Lux reached base three times from the No. 9 spot.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

Though that was the only time it all came to fruition Friday, it still was enough to start the season with a win — and provide a preview of the potential fireworks to come from their lineup.

“Taking walks, running counts, chasing Freeland when we did,” Roberts said. “Really positive things.”

He added: “If we can do that, with the hit tool our guys have 1 through 9 … it should be stressful every inning that you play our club.”