Colorado Rockies fans, be honest.
What if a friend had told you Thursday morning that Chris Owings would not only be the starting second baseman for the Colorado Rockies‘ 2021 season opener later that afternoon, but that he would have a standout performance both offensively and defensively?
Would you have thought that your friend was just playing an April Fools’ Day joke on you?
Well, Owings turned out to be an unlikely hero as Colorado hung on to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-5 before a crowd of 20,570 at Coors Field to open the season with a win against the defending world champions.
Yes, Chris Owings was an Opening Day catalyst for the Colorado Rockies
Batting seventh in the order, Owings went 3-for-3 at the plate, scored three runs, and drove in the go-ahead run with a sixth-inning single to help the Rockies rally to defeat the Dodgers in the first Opening Day matchup between the two National League West rivals in franchise history.
With Los Angeles starting the season with ace southpaw Clayton Kershaw on the mound, Colorado manager Bud Black went with the percentages and inserted the right-handed-hitting Owings in the lineup (in favor of left-handed hitting Ryan McMahon) while also knowing that Owens — a veteran of nine Major League seasons — had faced Kershaw previously while playing for fellow NL West foe Arizona.
Owings responded by reaching base in all four of his plate appearances (three hits, including a triple, and a walk). He also matched a career high with two stolen bases.
In the at bat in which he drew a walk from Dodgers reliever Jimmy Nelson in the seventh inning, Owings extended the at bat long enough to draw a wild pitch from Nelson that allowed C.J. Cron to score from third base and give Colorado an 8-4 lead.
In his first action with the Rockies, Cron had a pair of hits, including a double, and scored two runs.
Black was impressed with Owings’ approach at the plate against Kershaw and Dodgers relievers.
"“Overall, he had good at bats throughout the day,” Black told media, including Rox Pile, after the game. “(He) really looked like he was seeing the ball well. His swing was short, compact. We had seen that the last couple of weeks down in Arizona. This was a carryover from that.“Again he has some history with Kershaw. He faced him a lot when he was with the Diamondbacks. So there was some familiarity there. But again it looked like he was ready for Kershaw’s stuff — the fastball, slider, curve ball combination. He was aggressive at times early in the count. The key. Did he lay off balls? Did he take strikes? C.O. did that today.”"
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Owings was also an integral part of the Rox defensive effort that produced three ground ball double plays against the Dodgers, who finished with 15 hits but stranded 14 runners on base.
The Charleston, S.C., native, was involved in two of the twin killings. With one out and a runner on first and the Rockies clinging to a 6-4 lead in the seventh inning, he started a key inning-ending double play.
Owings made a diving stop to corral a grounder up the middle off the bat of Austin Barnes, then flipped to shortstop Trevor Story for the forceout at second before Story fired to Cron at first base to complete the double play.
Owings is no stranger to starting on Opening Day, pointing out to media that his start against the Dodgers marked the sixth time he has been in the lineup for a season’s initial game.
This start will certainly remain memorable for him.
"“This one definitely stood out, especially after how weird of a season it was last year,” Owings said. “Just having the (pregame) flyover and fans back. It was definitely exciting. You get chills being out there on the line.”"
Where would he place Thursday’s Opening Day starting performance with his five earlier ones?
"“Man. It definitely ranks up there, for sure,” he said. “The only one I can think of was (when) I hit a walk-off in (20)17, a single to win the game. So that was pretty special as well, but this was definitely a great day, for sure. Good team win (and) to do it against the world champs. That’s nice, too.”"
In 2017, while with Arizona, he had the game-winning hit in the D-Backs season opener against San Francisco.
While Colorado took a three-run lead into the ninth inning against the Dodgers, the game did not end without a little drama.
Rockies closer Daniel Bard, who picked up the save, surrendered a triple to open the inning before issuing a walk. He then sandwiched a pair of strikeouts around a hit by pitch.
With two outs and the bases loaded, Dodgers leadoff hitter Mookie Betts ended the game by lining out to Owings — who else? — to cap Rockies second baseman’s big day and secure the victory.
With the win, Colorado improved to 16-13 on Opening Day, including 5-3 in Denver (5-2 at Coors Field). It was the franchise’s eighth Opening Day in Denver and first since 2011.