A utilityman hitting in the seven hole stole the show in Colorado’s 8-5 win over the Dodgers on opening day.
Chris Owings, who got the start at second base over the left-handed-hitting Ryan McMahon because of the matchup against Los Angeles southpaw Clayton Kershaw, had a productive afternoon with the bat and glove.
The 29-year-old went 3-for-3 with an RBI, a walk and three runs scored, catalyzing Colorado’s offense.
“Right before I left the field yesterday is when I found out (I was starting),” Owings said. “We knew (Kershaw) was going to be aggressive, because he comes out and throws strikes… We needed to match his competitiveness out there, and I thought guys were ready to hit.”
Owings got up for the first time in the third inning and skied Kershaw’s 1-2 slider to the right-field warning track. Mookie Betts badly misplayed the ball and Owings, who was hustling out of the box, turned a should’ve-been out into a triple. He then scored on a suicide squeeze by Garrett Hampson, tying the game 1-1.
After singling to lead off the fifth, Owings played into Colorado’s small-ball scheme by advancing to second on a walk, to third on a sacrifice bunt and then scoring on an RBI groundout by Raimel Tapia.
Owings again victimized Kershaw in the sixth with a single up the middle. He proceeded to record Colorado’s first steal of the season, and later added on to his career opening day by drawing a full-count walk in the seventh off reliever Jimmy Nelson.
“He’s got talent and I’ve seen it firsthand from the other dugout,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “In getting to know him, he’s going to be a contributor who helps us win. He’s versatile and he’s in a good spot in his career right now.”
In the field, Owings flashed leather in the seventh. He dove behind second and snagged Austin Barnes’ groundball, then from the ground flipped the ball to shortstop Trevor Story for a 4-6-3, inning-ending double-play.
“That was a highlight-reel, Top-10er, play-of-the-day,” Black said.
After Owings hit .268 with two homers and five RBIs in 41 at-bats for Colorado last season, the Rockies re-signed him to a minor league deal Jan. 3. A strong spring training cemented Owings’ spot on the roster, and Colorado selected his contract March 22.
“Last year was a tough year injury-wise for him (with a hamstring injury),” Story said. “If he can do this thing for a full season, people will be really impressed.”
Owings originally established himself in the league with the Diamondbacks, who drafted him No. 41 overall in 2009. He debuted in 2013 and played six seasons in Arizona before splitting 2019 between Kansas City and Boston.
Despite this being his ninth big-league season, Owings has only been a full-time starter in one of them, 2015. He will again be used in that complementary role for Colorado in 2021, but performances like the one Owings delivered Thursday are exactly what the Rockies need.
“It helps when you have a short bench to be versatile, like Owings is and Hampson, McMahon, (Josh) Fuentes,” Black said. “As we get into this (season)… it’s great to have that maneuverability. And (Owings) has that ability. He had a really good day today… but days like this are going to have to come from everybody.”.
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