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Dodgers regain their summer swagger in 9-5 Game 1 victory over Diamondbacks

Andy McCullough, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

LOS ANGELES -- The night felt like June or July or August, those glorious months when the Los Angeles Dodgers ruled the sport like preordained kings. But it was October, the proving ground for prospective monarchs, and that mattered all the more.

In the first game of the first round of 2017 playoffs, the Dodgers pulped the Arizona Diamondbacks early, galvanized a capacity crowd of 54,707 at Dodger Stadium and took a 9-5 victory Friday night.

A four-run, first-inning blitz against a jittery pitcher set the tone. Justin Turner bashed a three-run homer. Yasiel Puig licked his bat and cracked an RBI double. Handed the lead, Clayton Kershaw towed his team into the seventh inning before a fusillade ended his night.

Arizona walloped a quartet of solo home runs against Kershaw, the most given up by any Dodger in postseason franchise history. Two came in the seventh, on back-to-back pitches to shortstop Ketel Marte and catcher Jeff Mathis. He finished with seven strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

The barrage sent a scare through the ballpark, but could not offset the Dodgers' early charge.

The performance eased the mind of manager Dave Roberts. Roberts managed this season while harboring grief. Seventeen days before the start of the season, Roberts lost his father, Waymon, a 30-year veteran of the Marines who settled his family outside San Diego in the 1980s. The loss was unexpected. Roberts spent a few days at home before rejoining the Dodgers to finish spring training.

 

On Friday morning, Roberts was writing in his journal when he started to think about his father. He broke down as he looked at family photographs. The outburst felt therapeutic, a few hours before entering the playoff crucible. "It felt good to get it out of my system," Roberts said.

On the scoreboard during batting practice, a video package played highlights from the first five months of the season: Kyle Farmer's game-winning debut hit, Puig pegging runners at third base, a slew of blasts from rookie sensation Cody Bellinger. The plays looked like dispatches from another decade, from the halcyon days before the team went 1-16 to stumble toward the finish line.

So the first inning felt like a flashback. On the mound for Arizona was Taijuan Walker, a hulking, 25-year-old right-hander making his first postseason start. He admitted a day earlier that this was the biggest outing of his career -- after he admitted he felt so nervous during Wednesday's wild-card game that he could not even watch.

Friday was far worse. A leadoff single by Chris Taylor opened the bottom of the inning. Corey Seager took a walk, passing on splitters inside and fastballs away. After a pitiable September, the patience shown by Seager offered encouragement for the rest of this month. So did what came next, from Turner.

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