DENVER — In this the 20th anniversary of the Coors Field humidor, Opening Day featured zero home runs and a relative pitcher’s duel.
A storage chamber had nothing to do with traditionally one of the best teams beating one of the worst, though. Dodgers’ starting pitcher Walker Buehler and four relievers combined to hold the Rockies to just seven hits, and No. 9 hitting Gavin Lux drilled a two-strike, two-out, two-run single up the box to ignite a five-run, fourth-inning rally and the perennial National League West champs defeated the perennial second-division Rockers, 5-3, here Friday in the first game of the 2022 baseball season.
On a near-perfect afternoon – 64 degrees with bright sunshine when Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson threw out his celebratory first-pitch strike to Rockies’ newcomer Kris Bryant – a sellout crowd of 48,627 had little to cheer about after the Rockies took the lead with two runs in the second.
"The crowd was awesome,'' said Rockies' manager Bud Black. "I'm sure the energy downtown was great. I'm sure there were a lot of people tuned in on television and radio. It was great. Opening Day in Denver is something special.
"And really guys, it's commented around the league from other players, managers, coaches, we do it right. The people here do it right. Everything, It was a great National Anthem. Big flag, the flyover, the weather. It was spectacular.''
>>Watch Broncos QB Russell Wilson throw out the first pitch at Rockies Opening Day in the video below!
Perhaps the 20th season of the humidor will be the most impactful on the game at Coors Field. A shocking and controversial concept when the Rockies first started humifying their baseballs in 2002, Major League Baseball has since come around to having humidors in all 30 of its ballparks for this season.
Ideally, MLB would like its baseballs uniformly stored in 70-degree temperature and 50 percent relative humidity. In the dry climes of Colorado’s Coors Field and Arizona’s Chase Field – the second ballpark to install a humidor in 2018, 16 years after the Rockies came up with the storage system – the humidor has to be turned up a tick or two more than others. In high-humidity places like St. Louis and Miami, the humidor will be turned down with the goal of taking some wetness out of the baseballs.
With the new MLB standards giving the Rockies a little more leeway with their humidor this season, the season opened with a decently pitched game from both sides. The Dodgers’ Walker Buehler struggled to get comfortable early, but then settled into a nice groove. The Rockies’ Kyle Freeland was dominant for a little more than 3 innings, but then hit a wall with two strikes and two outs in the fourth.
At that moment, Freeland had six strikeouts through three innings and was protecting a 2-0 lead with two outs in the fourth and an 0-2 count on Lux. After missing with two curveballs, Freeland threw a pitch that Lux whacked into center field for a two-run single. Freeland then surrendered a tie-breaking double to Mookie Betts, and was chased after he walked lefty Freddie Freeman.
"I had a lot of momentum right there,'' Freeland said. "No one wants to go from 0-2 count, two outs, runners on, we can get out of a jam to giving up two runs and the ballgame's tied. That's a momentum-killer."
When reliever Tyler Kinsley came in and allowed a run-scoring single to Trea Turner, then a wild pitch to bring in another inherited runner, the Dodgers had stunned Freeland with 5 earned runs in the inning.
Again, he was one pitch away from a fourth scoreless inning.
Until then, it looked good for the Rockies. Ryan McMahon started the bottom of the second with an opposite-field double to the base of the left-field wall, advanced to third on a line single by designated hitter Connor Joe, and scored on a ground out by newcomer Randal Grichuk. A two-single by new shortstop Jose Iglesias gave the Rockies a 2-0 lead.
The Rockies showed some life in the ninth inning when Elias Diaz and Charlie Blackmon drilled doubles against Dodgers' closer Craig Kimbrel. But the mighty Bryant struck out to end it.
Yes, there will be a designated hitter at all Coors Field games this year and beyond. It was mentioned in Black's postgame press conference this may have been the first game ever at Coors Field that didn't use a pinch-hitter.
A DH at Coors was long a scary proposition for those who don’t like slo-pitch softball-like scores, but a DH is now possible to a ballgame’s normalcy thanks in part to the continued adjustments of the humidor. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.
PHOTOS | Rockies Opening Day 2022
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