Dodgers open shortened season with win over Giants, boost from Jackie Robinson's widow

Jackie Robinson's 98-year-old widow Rachel helped kick off Opening Day with the traditional "It's time for Dodger baseball!"

Friday, July 24, 2020
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Opening day for Major League Baseball kicks off Thursday, and expectations are sky high for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who face off against the San Francisco Giants.

LOS ANGELES -- Baseball's shortened season made its West Coast debut Thursday with the Dodgers beating their rival San Francisco Giants 8-1 in front of no fans at Dodger Stadium.

Cardboard cutouts with piped-in crowd noise cheered the players on, with the coronavirus pandemic forcing most professional sports leagues to keep fans away from their games.

The absence of fans only served to amplify the sounds of the game: 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.

Some of those fan cutouts were recognizable faces.

Dodgers scout Mike Brito had his own cutout behind home plate. The 85-year-old, who discovered Fernando Valenzuela, is wearing his traditional Panama hat, chomping a cigar and holding a radar gun. He's positioned in the aisle with former "Entertainment Tonight" host Mary Hart in her seat next to him.

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The game also offered more than one nod to history.

In a video, the widow of Jackie Robinson, 98-year-old Rachel Robinson, gave the traditional call of "It's time for Dodger baseball!"

And the Giants made women's sports history.

Alyssa Nakken of the Giants became the first female to coach in a Major League regular-season game. She plans to donate her jersey to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Dustin May became the first Dodgers rookie to start on opening day since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981 when Clayton Kershaw couldn't go because of a back issue. It was similar to when Valenzuela was a late replacement for the injured Jerry Reuss back then.

May allowed seven hits and one run in 4 1/3 innings. The 6-foot-6 right-hander struck out four and walked none.

May was originally not on the 30-man roster and the 22-year-old found himself pressed into duty after Kershaw's back stiffened during a weight room workout on Tuesday.

Before the game, the Giants and Dodgers held a black ribbon that wound along the baselines in a show of unity after pregame introductions. Anthem singer Keith Williams Jr. stood in the new center field seating to perform instead of the usual spot near home plate. Betts and some of the Giants kneeled during the performance.

Mookie Betts, who took a knee during the national anthem, went 1 for 5 in his Dodgers debut. Betts struck out swinging in his first at-bat a day after signing a $365 million deal over 12 years.

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Justin Turner grounded into a fielder's choice and Betts beat a throw to the plate to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead in the seventh. The Giants lost their appeal of the call after Betts slid head-first.

Betts struck out with the bases loaded to end a five-run inning that made it 6-1.

Adam Kolarek (1-0) got the victory with 1 2/3 innings of relief.

Kiké Hernández homered and drove in five runs

Pablo Sandoval's sacrifice fly scored San Francisco's lone run. Tyler Rogers (0-1) took the loss.

Johnny Cueto started for the Giants, allowing one run and five hits over four innings. He struck out three and walked one.