Thompson hit three home runs, including a grand slam in his first at-bat of the season, and had a career-high eight RBIs as the Dodgers rolled to a 10-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Saturday. He’s the first player to drive in eight or more runs in a season debut since the RBI became an official statistic in 1920.
The offensive outburst came in support of lefty Clayton Kershaw, who got the best of an old personal rival as Los Angeles beat Arizona for the 16th time in the past 22 meetings. Kershaw earned the victory opposite Arizona’s Madison Bumgarner, with the left-handers facing each other for the 12th time.
After struggling to hit left-handed pitching as a platoon player last season, with the right-handed hitting Thompson batting .174 with a .621 OPS against lefties, his first-inning grand slam off Bumgarner felt like an exclamation point.
Was it satisfying since the struggles were a topic of conversation in the spring?
“Not necessarily because I know I can do it,” said Thompson, the brother of Golden State Warriors star Klay Thompson and son of former NBA player Mychal Thompson. “It’s just a good way to start the year. It’s still early. You still have to wake up tomorrow and go out and help this team win a game but I know I can do it.”
Kershaw (1-0) gave up one run on four hits with no walks and nine strikeouts in an efficient 76 pitches over his first start of 2023. Bumgarner (0-1) gave up five runs on four hits with four walks and two strikeouts in four innings (85 pitches). Each pitcher’s team has won six times in the all-time meetings.
“I have a lot of respect for Bum,” Kershaw said. “We’ve done it a lot now and we’re still trying to do it. I think there is a level of respect on both sides that it’s fun to compete against [each other] and we’ll probably do it again here in a few days [at Arizona].”
Thompson’s grand slam came in a five-run first inning for the Dodgers before he added a three-run shot in the fifth inning.
“I couldn’t be happier for Trayce; it was really cool,” Kershaw said. “That’s a good month right there. He can sit on that for a while. But he’s the best, man, so I’m happy for him and it’s a great way to get going for the season.”
Christian Walker hit a home run for the Diamondbacks, the fifth of his career against Kershaw.
The Dodgers wasted little time jumping on Bumgarner. Mookie Betts opened the bottom of the first with a double, Freddie Freeman singled and Max Muncy was hit by a slow curveball to load the bases. Chris Taylor‘s sacrifice fly gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead with a Miguel Vargas walk loading the bases again before Thompson’s slam.
“My mechanics were fine, it was just one of those days you have during the year and mine just happened to be the first one,” Bumgarner said. “It wasn’t like I went out there and threw the ball really well, but I was just one pitch away in the first of it being a completely different game. After that, it wasn’t bad.”
Walker’s home run in the second inning pulled the Diamondbacks to 5-1 and gave him nine hits in his first 29 career at-bats against Kershaw.
Bumgarner gave way to right-hander Kevin Ginkel in the fifth inning before Thompson cashed in a double from Martinez and another walk to Vargas with his second-career multihomer game for an 8-1 lead.
J.D. Martinez‘s first home run in a Dodgers’ uniform came in the seventh inning, while Thompson’s third of the night came in the eighth. All three of Thompson’s home runs went to left-center field and traveled 409, 418 and 440 feet, in that order.
“It’s just one night but I felt really good tonight and I felt like I was seeing the ball well,” said Thompson, who received a curtain call from Dodgers fans after his third home run. “That last week of spring training, I felt pretty good. We worked on some stuff and it started to click.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Thompson will start in the outfield again Sunday with Betts getting his first start of the season at second base.
“I developed a new three-homer rule,” Roberts said. “It you hit three homers, you’ll play the next day.”