The 2021 Rockies’ season may not hold a ton of highlights, but Opening Day sure did during a 8-5 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Approved for 42.6% capacity or 21,363 fans, Coors Field was alight with cheers by the hometown hopefuls, the first time since September 27, 2019 due to safety protocol brought upon by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Following an offseason that saw the trade of a generational talent, Nolan Arenado, Colorado rolled out an inexperienced lineup that produced all-around against the reigning World Series Champion.
While starter Germán Márquez was less than his best – a career-high six walks yielded only one run in four frames – the story in the early-going was the lack of swinging strikes for the Colorado offense.
Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw recorded just two strikeouts through 5.2 innings pitched. In between that pair was constant contact that bared fruit each and every time.
First, Chris Owings slashed a fly ball to right field in the third inning that should have been a lazy fly ball 98% of the time, according to StatCast. Instead, the starting second baseman ended on third with a triple. Garrett Hampson followed with a sacrifice bunt single to get the purples on the board.
In the fifth, Chi Chi González performed mightily to lay down a successful sac bunt and move runners into scoring position before Raimel Tapia slapped an RBI-grounder. Josh Fuentes followed for what should have been an easy out, but shortstop Corey Seager erred and another run crossed the plate.
Even more, the Rockies benefited from a pair of wild pitches in the seventh from reliever Jimmy Nelson after Charlie Blackmon walked and C.J. Cron crushed a ground-rule double.
The ninth was a nail-biter as closer Daniel Bard loaded the bases with one out to put the winning-run to the plate with Mookie Betts on deck. Bard struck out Matt Beatty on three pitches and got a liner to second base from Betts to secure the victory.
Player of the Game: Chris Owings – 3-for-3, 3B, BB, 2 SB, RBI
Getting the start over Ryan McMahon against the left-handed Kershaw, Owings made his manager look like a genius with a perfect day, reaching base with each plate appearance while swiping two bases and score three times.
Toss in a fantastic defensive stop to end the seventh with a 4-6-3 double play and it’s one of the most complete Opening Day performances for which any player can hope.
“What a play,” manager Bud Black said after the game. That’s a highlight reel, a top-10-er. Even Trev on the other end with Cron on the pick. What a play.”
Turning Point: Rockies get back up after getting knocked down
Dodgers scored in the third, fifth and sixth innings, but the Rockies responded each time. Tied 4-4 in the sixth with Kershaw still in the game, Cron and Elias Díaz singled before Owings came through again with one of his own to give Colorado a lead that would not be given back.
Never one to be complacent, Owings stole second base before Tapia’s RBI-single made it 6-4 to chase the Dodgers’ future Hall of Famer from the game.
Honorable Mention: Cody Bellinger walloped a 388ft fly ball to left ball that appeared to be a home run that Tapia could not hold onto. Instead of a two-run home run to stake the Dodgers to an early lead, Bellinger passed the runner on first base and was called out. In the end, it was a single that scored Justin Turner and the Rockies got somewhat of a gift.
Defensive Gem: Fuentes turns pair of double plays, then some
Rockies pitchers allowed a lot of leadoff runners on the day, but Fuentes helped erased the first two to open the game with some stellar play at the hot corner. Later in the game, Charlie Blackmon fired a single to third base to nab Corey Seager going first-to-third thanks to a diving tag made by Fuentes.
- Blackmon made his eighth career Opening Day start, tied with Larry Walker for the fourth-most in franchise history behind Todd Helton (16 starts), Troy Tulowitzki (nine) and Carlos Gonzalez (nine).
- The 2021 season is Blackmon’s 11th on the Rockies’ Major League roster (2011-
2021), good for the second-most in franchise history behind only Todd Helton’s 17 seasons.
- Ben Bowden, Yonathan Daza, Dom Nuñez and Jordan Sheffield are all on the Opening Day roster for the first time in their career. Bowden and Sheffield have yet to make their Major League debut, while Daza and Nuñez each debuted for the Rockies in 2019.