LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – After a four-month delay, the Boys in Blue got off to a winning start on Opening Day – but it all happened without Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw or fans to cheer them on.
The Los Angeles Dodgers kicked off their truncated 60-game season against the San Francisco Giants Thursday night in Dodger Stadium, winning 8-1.
Both teams took a knee during a moment of silence before the national anthem played.
As the national anthem began, outfielder Mookie Betts, who signed a record 12-year deal with the Dodgers the day prior, remained on his knee while teammates Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy placed their hands on his shoulders.
“It was just unity,” Betts said. “We’re all on the same team, we’re all here for change, even the Giants.”
Betts’ perspective on kneeling has changed since 2016, when he said he wouldn’t take such action. His father, Willie, served in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force.
“I wasn’t educated, and that’s my fault,” Betts said. “I know my dad served and I’ll never disrespect the flag, but there also has to be change. Kneeling is for the injustice.”
Giants manager Gabe Kapler, in his first game as Bruce Bochy’s successor, kneeled, too.
One of the favorites to reach the World Series because of their stacked roster, the Dodgers Wednesday agreed to a staggering 12-year, $365 million deal with Betts, the richest contract in Major League Baseball history.
“This is something I’ll always remember,” Betts said after scoring the go-ahead run in the seventh inning to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. “It’s just a new chapter in life.”
Kiké Hernández homered and drove in five runs while tying his career high with four hits for Los Angeles.
Clayton Kershaw was scheduled to take the mound, but was placed on the injured list because of back stiffness Thursday afternoon.
Right-hander Dustin May was recalled and started in place of Kershaw. It made the 22-year-old May the first Dodger rookie pitcher to start on opening day since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. May was 2-3 with a 3.63 ERA in 14 games in 2019, including four starts.
May allowed one run and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-6 right-hander struck out four and walked none.
“He kept his composure,” Hernández said. “He wasn’t nervous or intimidated by the amount of cardboards we had in the stands.”
While the ballpark was empty, the Dodgers sold 4,500 cardboard cutouts of fans that were placed in the seats. The $800,000 raised has gone to the L.A. Dodgers Foundation charity.
The sounds of the game were amplified. The crack of the bat on a sharply hit ball. The DJ’s music echoing. Foul balls clunking loudly upon landing in the seats. The home plate umpire’s third-strike calls easily heard. Teammates yelled reminders to Dodgers left fielder Joc Pederson about which base to throw to after he snagged a fly ball in the second.
Professional sports is in uncharted territory in the post-coronavirus world. How the season plays out is anyone’s guess.
“The ultimate unscripted reality show,” Dodgers historian Mark Langill told CBSLA Wednesday. “How boring would it be if we knew what was gonna happen? I thought we were going to have Opening Day in April, and look what’s happened. We’re a reflection of society, and how great that the Dodgers can be able to provide this to the community as far as, be able to play, be able to, we’re all in this together, that has so many different reasons and meanings, and so, who knows what’s going to happen. That’s the fun part.”
Until the playoffs, all the Dodgers games will be on the West Coast. Forty of the 60 games will be interdivisional, and the other 20 interleague games will be against teams in their own geographic area in order to limit travel.
MLB announced earlier this month that the 2020 All-Star Game, which was set to take place at Dodger Stadium, had been canceled. Since Atlanta has already been selected to host the 2021 All-Star Game, L.A. will host again in 2022.
MLB was forced to delay the planned March 26 start to the season due to the coronavirus. In late June, after weeks of tense negotiations, the MLB owners and the players’ union and the owners reached a deal on a shortened season. In preparation, the Dodgers began a second version of spring training on July 3.
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)