LOS ANGELES — You could almost feel the D-backs unleashing their frustration with every swing, exorcising the demons that haunted them at Dodger Stadium. For years, they had been the Dodgers’ plaything, their little brother, a team unworthy of being their opponent.
Those days may be a thing of the past as the D’s defeated Clayton Kershaw’s Dodgers 11-2 in Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Saturday night.
“Definitely coming here in the past, you know they’ve been tough on us as a whole, we’ve been the little brother and you know it feels good to do that in the playoffs and give it back to them,” the outfielder said. Alec Thomas said. “So hopefully we can build on today and carry that into the next game.”
It didn’t take long for me to figure out that this was going to be the D-back’s night. The top five batters against Kershaw had exit velocities of 115.7 mph, 109.6, 99.4, 105.7 and 110.8.
“I think obviously they made a lot of good swings,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It seemed like they were reacting to everything (Kershaw) was spitting out. What’s even more shocking is that. I thought those guys definitely had a great game plan tonight and they executed it.”
When the series of hits ended, the D-Backs scored five runs, including Gabriel Moreno’s three-run homer that silenced the crowd. They went on to score six runs in the inning, with Kershaw retiring just one batter before leaving.
“I’m extremely proud of our players,” head coach Tory Lovullo said. “We talked about making a statement individually and collectively from the first batter on, and they did a great job.”
The backs came into the game answering questions about their struggles at Dodger Stadium. They’re 5-24 at Chavez Canyon since 2020, and it seems like they’re always looking up to the Dodgers.
On Saturday, however, they flipped the script.
“Relief is a funny word, but coming in here we had big expectations for ourselves, a high standard,” first baseman Christian Walker said. “We know what we’re capable of. So to get a lot of those runs early in this game to create some momentum, to give Merrill (Kelly) a cushion – all things considered, it’s great, awesome. It was the jump start we needed, a little confidence boost to help us settle in and relax. It was a great start.”
But it’s not over yet. For good measure, the D-backs added three more runs in the second inning, and even though they had seven more innings to play, the game was over. The question now is whether the same will be true for this series, or whether this will be nothing more than a rough outing for a sure-to-be Hall of Famer.
Backers have so much respect for a Dodgers team that won 100 games in the regular season that they feel a loss would demoralize them or represent some kind of tectonic shift in the balance of power.
When Zach Gallen arrives on Monday night for Game 2 of this best-of-five series against Dodgers rookie Bobby Miller, Arizona knows it will be starting from scratch again, with the added benefit of confidence.
“It was more for our point of view, you know, proving to ourselves that we’re capable of playing on a big stage against a really good team,” Walker said of the win. “I believe in a few days, it’s going to be our day and we have to do it again. We have to do it all over again. This is just the beginning, but I certainly want to push this as far as we can.”
The D-Backs were the last wild-card team in the NFC with 84 wins. They scored 15 more points than they had during the season and had to fight until the penultimate day of the season to qualify for the playoffs.
But in three playoff games, the Guards outplayed Corbin Burns, Freddy Peralta and Clayton Kershaw, scoring 22 points in those games. Their confidence seems to grow with each win.
“We’re a good team,” Lovullo said.
Disregard them at your own risk.