Allstate Journal

This time, Jimmy Rollins brings joy to Dodger Stadium

At least 25 reporters were trying to talk to Jimmy Rollins all at once in the Dodgers’ clubhouse Monday, so Rollins hopped up on a table, then everybody was looking up at him. That’s because Rollins, who stands just 5-feet-7, had given his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, an Opening Day victory over the vastly improved San Diego Padres with a tie-breaking three-run homer in the eighth inning.

“He battled,” teammate Howie Kendrick said of Rollins’ eighth-inning at-bat off Padres reliever Shawn Kelly. “Then he got a pitch he can handle, and he didn’t miss. That comes with experience. Knowing to stay inside yourself. He fouled off a couple of tough sliders. He got that one pitch in the ‘honey hole’ — that’s what we call it. He didn’t miss. That gave us a lift, and we got the victory because of it.” Even though Rollins weighs just 175 pounds, his powerful blast into the right-field stands was the heftiest hit in the 6-3 win. He also singled and walked, going 2-for-4 in his L.A. debut.

The power hitter the Dodgers gave up in the offseason, Matt Kemp, drove in three runs off reigning MVP and Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw. But Rollins, the little guy the Dodgers added to shore up shortstop and provide maturity in the clubhouse, had just as many RBI – and the decisive ones. Kendrick is another first-year Dodger, so he has no painful memories associated with Rollins. But it was the diminutive shortstop, then with the Philadelphia Phillies, who put a nail in the Dodgers’ coffin in the 2009 playoffs with a walk-off double off then-L.A. closer Jonathan Broxton in Game 4 of the NLCS.

That clutch hit was actually occupying the thoughts of Dodgers manager Don Mattingly when Rollins walked up to bat in the eighth with one out and runners at first and second. Asked if he kind of expected Rollins, 36, an MVP and three-time All-Star in his years in Philadelphia, to produce a veteran at-bat in that situation, Mattingly, who was a coach to Joe Torre in 2009, paused and said, “Actually, I was thinking of that double in the corner off Broxton.”

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