Plaschke: The latest Dodgers inspire and help set the tone for a season of intrigue

Dodgers rookie center fielder James Outman hit a double home run in the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 8-2 opening win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium Thursday. (Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

It was wet, cold and beautiful.

The lineup was weird, worrying, and wonderful.

Opening day was opening night, the decade-long dynasty was riddled, the best fans of the summer were wrapped up and uncertain and yet…

The magic returned, stronger than ever Dodgers open the 2023 season Thursday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks with a 8:2 victory in a Dodger Stadium equipped with a new and energetic buzz.

People trembled, but they screamed. There were empty seats but dancing in the aisles. This was an organization last seen Collapse against the San Diego Padres last season in the National League Division Series, but the air was filled with forgiveness, forgetfulness and joy.

There was: “Fred die! Fred-die!” There was “Moookie!” And there was, “Who is that?”

Beneath the pavilion’s song and the ceiling’s cheer and the blinding new stadium lights lingered that strange commodity of the Chavez Gorge known as Intrigue.

This was a Dodgers team with five new players on the starting lineup, including two rookies appearing in their first opener of the season. This was a Dodgers team selected to finish second in a National League West division it has won nine times in the past 10 years.

This was the start of the drama for once, and the joint rocked along.

new kid James Outman blasted a double-barreled homer and singled. new kid Miguel Varga went and scored. New vet JD Martinez rode in one run with a bumped single. New vet David Peralta rode a tough single in another run. And new shortstop Miguel Rojas …well, he booted a grounder for the first mistake of the season, but this wasn’t a night to be picky.

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 30: Los Angeles Dodgers' Miguel Vargas, right, celebrates with James Outman.

Miguel Vargas, right, celebrates with James Outman after Outman’s double home run during Thursday’s sixth inning. (Allen J. Cockroaches / Los Angeles Times)

Combined with the fast-paced play dictated by the new pitch clock, the game was a mix of new faces and compelling action, all anchored by old friends Julio Uríaswho gave up two runs in six innings.

Season started, tone set.

This will be different. This is gonna be weird. This could be a bang.

“We’ve had romance novels every year for the last 10 years, we knew all the characters, we knew we were going to do really well,” said Orel Hershiser, the Dodgers’ former pitching star and current broadcaster. “This is a mystery, and it’s kind of fun.”

The third nightly season opener here in 47 years really was a hoot as the five Dodgers freshmen came together to win seven for 17 with four RBIs.

Talk about making yourself at home. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said it’s important for each of the new players to knock and relax.

“They always want to get the first entry into the base … to make a contribution in some way … all these guys are trying to do something,” Roberts said. “People who are contributing that haven’t been here before, that’s a good start so they can kind of catch their breath.”

The only thing that didn’t always work so well was those bright new lights, which amazingly dimmed when the Diamondbacks made a pitching change. Can you do this? What if the pitcher running out of the bullpen trips because he can’t see? We suspect this little trick will soon be outlawed.

“The light was fantastic… We got a little aggressive with the dimmer in the middle of a track,” Roberts said with a smile. “Better them than us. I think that’s another benefit of playing at Dodger Stadium.

As for the other bells and whistles of a season opener, everything else was classy and everything else worked.

First, as a throwback to the Dodgers’ recent World Series performances, Keith Williams Jr. sang the national anthem, once again showing more reach than any Dodgers infielder.

Then, as the anthem ended, there was an overpass shaking windows in Pasadena.

In homage to the Dodgers’ cherished pitching history, the first pitch was thrown out together by Cy Young winners Fernando Valenzuela, Eric Gagne and Hershiser, with their catchers being Mike Scioscia, Rick Dempsey and Roberts. The show stole from Scioscia, who received a huge ovation when she made a rare appearance at Dodger Stadium after managing the Angels for 19 years.

After the comfort of the pre-game party came the unfamiliar parameters of a 2023 Dodgers game.

There was as much cheering as roaring at the ceremonial introduction of the players, with fans still trying to figure out who was who.

After the mighty first four of the lineup Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Will Smith And Max Muncythere dived… who was that again?

Martinez was the designated hitter. Peralta was in left field. Vargas and Outman were at second base and midfield, respectively. Rojas batted ninth.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever seriously watched any of these last five guys. Raise your hand if you could even recognize any of them?

That’s not a bad thing. That’s what Roberts said before the game.

“I think volatility is probably too strong a word,” Roberts said. “But if you have more experienced ballers or proven players, I think you can bet on the baseball card. If there are more unknowns in terms of length of service, I think that contributes to that kind of volatility, but with that comes a lot of excitement. And I think we’re going to embrace that for all of us.”

The lineup even included an opening-day first starter, despite being one of the few fixtures given that Urías is the most popular dodger these days, and the Mexican left-hander is eliciting community affection much like his predecessor Valenzuela.

“Gosh, if you look at that fan base … and you look at how they support Julio regardless of race,” Roberts said, “I definitely believe that with what Fernando did for baseball and the Dodgers and as Julio has taken on. Because of his Mexican background, it’s always fun to cheer for people who look like you.”

He might not be a Dodger for long. Urías can become a free agent after this season.

“Yes,” Roberts said dryly. “I heard.”

Will the Dodgers pay a winter after refusing to spend on a top-notch free agent, which is what it takes to keep their local hero? It’s a story worth watching, but just one of many compelling stories in a season that should be filled with them for once.

It all started with a strange, unsettling slap in the hands on Thursday night.

It couldn’t have started any better.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.

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