Shohei Ohtani and Miguel Rojas help fill in for injured Mookie Betts in Dodgers' win


No Mookie, no problem.

For one night at least.

In the Dodgers’ first game without star shortstop Mookie Betts, who is expected to sit out roughly six to eight weeks because of a fractured hand he sustained Sunday, the team cruised to a 9-5 win over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.

And, in a reminder of the talent on the Dodgers’ roster, they received some of their biggest contributions from the two players taking over Betts’ primary responsibilities.

Without Betts at the top of the lineup, designated hitter Shohei Ohtani was bumped up to the leadoff spot and went three for four with an RBI and a walk.

Without Betts at shortstop, Miguel Rojas slid back over to his natural position and christened the return with a three-hit, two-run, one-RBI outburst, continuing an impressively productive start to the season the Dodgers will need to last for the foreseeable future.

The Dodgers received plenty of help from others Monday, including a seven-inning, one-run, two-hit start by James Paxton (one of the pitchers who will have to step up in the absence of Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who also suffered a significant, but non-season-ending injury this weekend), three hits from Jason Heyward and a career-high five walks from Freddie Freeman.

But, in the big picture, it was the play of Ohtani (who was batting leadoff for only the second time this season) and Rojas (starting at shortstop for only the fourth time in the last month and a half) that was most encouraging to a club still reeling from Betts’ injury.

“You just don’t know how things are gonna go after you lose Mookie,” Freeman said. “So we kind of responded today. The game we played today, that was huge for us. So we’ll just hold it down until Mookie can get better.”

Ohtani’s performance served as an encore to Sunday, when he emerged from an 11-for-51 slump with two home runs. The star slugger didn’t leave the yard again Monday, but he did single home a run in the second, before hitting back-to-back doubles in the fourth and sixth innings — the latter on an opposite-field bullet down the left-field line.

“We haven’t seen him drive a ball to left field like he did for that double in quite some time,” manager Dave Roberts said. “So that’s a good sign.”

Ohtani now has a .314 batting average and .989 OPS, ranking fourth and second in the National League, respectively.

For the time being, Ohtani will also serve as the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter, moving up from a No. 2 spot that on Monday belonged to catcher Will Smith, the former cleanup hitter. Freddie Freeman remained in the No. 3 spot, and Teoscar Hernández batted fourth.

Is this the new look Roberts will use at the top of the lineup?

“I think versus the right-hander, I like this,” Roberts said, not entirely tipping his hand. “Against left, I will probably think through it. But this feels right, versus both right now.”

Roberts made the Dodgers’ shortstop plans much more clear, stating that, in Betts’ absence, Rojas will start the majority of the games at the position, with Kiké Hernández backing him up in addition to his other roles at third base and the outfield.

Rojas has the glove to be a starting shortstop, the role he served for the Dodgers for most of last year and the Miami Marlins the six seasons before that. He has been a pleasant surprise at the plate, raising his batting average to .292 and OPS to .799 with two singles and an RBI double in the seventh inning Monday.

In games Rojas has recorded at least one hit this season, the Dodgers are 20-0.

The big question with Rojas, 35, has been durability.

Last year, when he unexpectedly started 109 games after Gavin Lux’s spring training knee injury, Rojas was bothered by nagging cramps in his hip. Earlier this month, Roberts said some lingering leg soreness was affecting Rojas, as well, contributing to the reason why, before Monday, Rojas had started only 30 of 73 games this season.

“I’m not 30 years old anymore,” Rojas said. “It takes special preparation, doing rehab, doing postgame work, so that’s what I’m doing.”

On Monday, both Rojas and Roberts expressed confidence in the 11-year veteran handling an increased workload. This week, Rojas will start in three of the four games at Coors Field.

“He would argue he could play every day,” Roberts said. “But my job is to manage it, so I think that’s a good rhythm for him. He’s in a good rhythm right now.”

Rojas’ shortstop defense has also remained sharp, thanks largely to his extensive routine of pregame infield drills alongside Betts this season, in which Rojas has served as a sounding board during Betts’ transition to the position.

Because of all the time they’ve spent together this season, Rojas said he was sad and angry when he saw Betts writhing on the ground in pain Sunday, after being plunked by a 98-mph fastball.

“It affected me a lot,” he said. “I don’t ever want to see Mookie go down like that, because I know his desire and drive to be great.”

In his first chance to step up in Betts’ place, though, Rojas and the rest of the Dodgers’ lineup delivered, helping ensure the Dodgers’ first game without their former MVP winner wasn’t one in which his presence was dearly missed.



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