Dodgers’ Ohtani, Betts and Freeman are matching the Big Three hype

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Welcome to — Boom! — Dodger Stadium — Bam! — for the — Pow! — home opener.

They attacked so fast. They swung so furiously. Fans could barely breathe. The St. Louis Cardinals could barely think.

When the Dodgers opened Chavez Ravine for the 2024 season Thursday afternoon, the front porch was adorned with their glittering new centerpiece, the three former MVPs who occupy the first three spots in their batting order.

Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani, Freddie Freeman.

Dread, doom, destruction.

They were supposed to be intimidating, overpowering, unstoppable, and guess what?

They were. Right away. Couldn’t wait. Crazy true.

On a sunny sizzle of an afternoon that began with a glitzy, cool pregame ceremony, the town’s hottest new trio strikingly stole the show. They went deep twice, walked four times, hit five times, scored six times and brought a sellout crowd to its feet while bringing the Cardinals to their knees in a 7-1 victory that wasn’t that close.

“The first word that comes to mind is, ‘daunting,’ ” said manager Dave Roberts..

The Merriam Webster definition of daunting is, “Tending to overwhelm or intimidate.”

Yeah, that pretty much covers it.

Betts, batting leadoff, was overwhelming with a home run, two walks and three runs scored.

“It seems like we’re just up there doing our jobs, having fun and playing the game,” Betts said.

Ohtani, batting second, was intimidating with a single, a double and a run scored.

“I think we had relatively good at-bats,” said Ohtani in Japanese, the MVP of understatement.

Freeman, batting third, was both overwhelming and intimidating with a homer, a single, a walk, two runs scored and three RBIs.

“Everyone’s excited, everyone has World Series aspirations,” Freeman said.

Well, not everyone was completely excited.

“I was the only one who didn’t hit a home run,” said Ohtani, poor guy, so sad.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani talks with first base coach Clayton McCullough in the dugout.

Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani talks with first base coach Clayton McCullough in the dugout Thursday during a win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The trio pounced with two runs in the first inning, added three runs in the third, and, with Tyler Glasnow throwing brilliantly in his Dodgers home debut, it was quickly game over.

“It was awesome,” Glasnow said. “It’s great to be a starting pitcher behind a lineup like that.”

He was talking about the entire lineup and, indeed, Max Muncy added two RBIs, James Outman knocked in a run, and Will Smith kept that first inning alive with a hit.

All of which led Freeman to make one thing clear: He doesn’t want folks talking about The Big Three without mentioning The Other Six.

“It’s not just the top of the order. There’s nine guys in this lineup,” Freeman said. “I will deflect that for every single question from here on out. It is nine guys in this lineup. We did a good job today.”.

OK, team player, understood, but this is a superstar town, and the three superstars will spend all summer as the focus, which made Thursday both a revelation and a relief.

Maybe they are that good?

“Yeah, it’s tough to navigate three times through for a starter,” said Roberts.

How interesting that the Cardinals’ starter Thursday was Miles Mikolas, who earlier this spring ripped the Dodgers for trying to buy a championship.

“We’re not exactly a low payroll team, but you got the Dodgers playing checkbook baseball,” Mikolas told reporters recently. “We’re going to be the hardest working group of Midwestern farmers we can be. … It would be great to stick it to the Dodgers.”

Well, at least on this day, the “checkbook baseball” did the sticking, as a trio with a combined contract total of around $1.2 billion knocked out the “farmer” in the fifth inning.

Mikolas, incidentally, will make $16 million this year on a team that will rank in the top 10 in payroll, so the Dodgers aren’t the only bunch with a checkbook.

In all, as Roberts said, it was, “a great day to watch a ballgame,” and truly splendid from the start.

Perfectly befitting this movie star team, the pregame ceremony was straight out of Hollywood.

There was a throaty video trailer that made it sound as if the Dodgers were going to be the greatest story ever told. The players were then introduced while walking a blue carpet stretching from center field toward the infield, which led to some complaining about the long walk, but c’mon, guys.

Those introductions were dramatically announced by actor and Dodger fan Bryan Cranston. The national anthem was turned into an emotional ballad by Josh Groban.

Then, with fans chanting “Let’s Go Dodgers” for the first of a zillion times this year, the team capped the festivities with the perfect plot twist.

For the honor of throwing out the first pitch, they chose to celebrate one of the biggest mistakes in franchise history.

Taking the mound was Adrián Beltré, the recently elected Hall of Famer who was cast aside by the Dodgers after a mammoth 2004 season in which he had 48 homers and 121 RBIs. He was just 25 at the time. He had just purchased a house in Arcadia. He didn’t want to leave.

But the Frank McCourt-owned team let him walk as a free agent, and he played 14 more seasons in Seattle, Boston and Texas, eventually retiring with 477 home runs and 1,707 RBIs.

“The bottom line is, the Dodgers didn’t want to sign me,” Beltré told me at the time. “If they had only talked to me and told me their plan, I would have signed for less money to stay there. I needed to hear it from them. We could have worked it out. But they never even talked to me.”

So on Thursday he donned a Dodgers uniform for the first time since then, and the optics were cool, and the cheering was nice, and it was refreshingly unexpected.

Next year, Mike Piazza?

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