Throughout spring training, the Rockies carried a big chip on their collective shoulder and talked about the hustling, exuberant brand of baseball they were going to play.
Thursday, on a 70-degree opening day at Coors Field, they delivered in front of 20,570 rowdy fans eager to watch baseball in person again.
With infielder Chris Owings playing a starring role, the Rockies thumped Clayton Kershaw and the defending World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, 8-5. Owings, who started at second base, finished 3-for-3 with a triple, two stolen bases, three runs scored and a gorgeous diving stop to start a double play to end the top half of the seventh.
Of course, the Rockies, being the Rockies, never make things easy.
In the ninth, Max Muncy tripled off closer Daniel Bard and Chris Taylor drew a walk. Bard struck out Edwin Rios looking before plunking Will Smith to load the bases. But Bard struck out Matt Beaty looking and got MVP candidate Mookie Betts to line out softly to second to notch the save.
The pesky Rockies made it the worst opening day of Kershaw’s career.
The future Hall of Famer entered Thursday’s game with the lowest ERA (1.05) on opening day by any pitcher in history with at least 40 innings. But the Rockies sliced and diced him for six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. That’s more runs than Kershaw had given up in his previous eight opening day starts, spanning 51 2/3 innings.
The Rockies won despite their pitchers issuing seven walks, six of them by starter German Marquez.
Colorado took a 6-4 lead with a two-run sixth, with RBI singles coming from Owings and Raimel Tapia. They salted the game away with a two-run seventh, the key hit a double by new first baseman C.J. Cron. Two runs scored off wild pitches by reliever Jimmy Nelson.
Call it small ball or Buddy (Black) ball — whatever — it worked for the Rockies in the early going vs. Kershaw. In the second, Owings led off with a triple to right and scored on Garrett Hampson’s RBI bunt single. Hampson came around to score on Josh Fuentes’ two-out single to left.
In Colorado’s two-run fifth, a single by Owings, a walk by Hampson, a sacrifice bunt by reliever Chi Chi Gonzalez, an RBI groundout by Raimel Tapia and a careless error by Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager on Fuentes’ grounder led to two more runs.
Marquez, who struggled with fastball command during spring training, was a pitcher without his compass. In just four innings, he tied a career-high by issuing six walks. He also gave up six hits. Somehow, he departed with a 2-1 lead. Marquez was aided by the golden glove of Fuentes, who started at third base and turned double plays in the first and second innings.
And Marquez was rescued by a bizarre turn of events in the third. Justin Turner was perched on first after a one-out single when Cody Bellinger sliced a ball over the head of left fielder Raimel Tapia. The ball bounced out of Tapia’s glove and over the wall for a should-be homer. However, a confused Turner, unsure of what was going on, ran back to first as Bellinger jogged past him.
Bellinger was called out, but since the ball cleared the fence, Turner scored and Bellinger was credited with an RBI single.