Yo Adrian: New star rocks the house at Dodgertown
LOS ANGELES -- For Adrian Gonzalez, familiar with the Dodger Stadium setting but never as one of the good guys in blue, it was like something out of a Hollywood screenwriter's vision.
"You couldn't write a better story than that," the Dodgers' new first baseman said late Saturday night.
In his first at-bat in the new uniform, Gonzalez launched a towering three-run homer into the second deck down the right-field line, powering the Dodgers to an 8-2 decision over the Marlins that he hopes will set a tone for the weeks and seasons to come.
"Every time I've been here before," said Gonzalez, a breakout star in San Diego before going to Boston before the 2011 season in a major trade, "there's been a lot of energy. It's one of the toughest crowds to play against. It's unbelievable to be on the good side of this crowd. I'm very excited."
Gonzalez arrived along with starter Josh Beckett and infielder Nick Punto in the nine-player swap. The fourth player coming to Los Angeles, outfielder Carl Crawford, is recovering from Tommy John surgery and won't return to action until next season.
A day that began in Boston and included a 5 1/2-hour coast-to-coast flight had what Dodgers president Stan Kasten called a "magical kind of feel" to it.
Watching the majestic flight of Gonzalez's first homer on his new turf, and 16th of the season, Kasten said, "was a moment you're never going to forget."
Beckett, who has struggled this season to find his dominant form of seasons past, is scheduled to make his first start on Monday. Punto, a Southern California native, debuted with a walk as a pinch-hitter for winning pitcher Clayton Kershaw in the eighth inning, scoring on Luis Cruz's single.
The Dodgers were on the attack against Josh Johnson from the outset, with doubles by Mark Ellis and Cruz greeting the veteran right-hander. Matt Kemp's first of three hits had runners at the corners for Gonzalez, who fouled off Johnson's first pitch.
"Just a lot of adrenaline getting warmed up in the on-deck circle," Gonzalez said, having taken a few swings in a batting cage to get loose before the game. "The guys made it a little easier for me with first and third.
"I was looking for a sacrifice fly, something up in the zone that I could get a fly ball on. The first pitch was a curveball and I was out in front a little. He made a good pitch. The next pitch was a fastball in, and it was all adrenaline. When I saw the ball halfway in trajectory, it was a great feeling."
Beckett watched from the dugout, rising with his new teammates and a crowd numbering 40,284 as the ball took flight.
"That was pretty awesome," Beckett said. "The only way you could have written a better script was with the bases loaded. A three-run homer off a tough pitcher like Josh Johnson ... that's pretty cool."
Gonzalez, who showcased his range in the field, was hitless the rest of the night while admiring the work of teammates. Andre Ethier led the offensive party by extending his streak of consecutive at-bats with hits to 10, tying a franchise record set in 1919 by Edward Konetchy. Ethier tied Ron Cey for the L.A. Dodgers mark with his ninth consecutive hit.
"Sitting there watching the lineup one through nine," Gonzalez said, "getting key hits, long at-bats against a very good pitcher in Josh Johnson ... that's a great lineup.
"There have been a lot of pieces put together here to surround Matt, Andre and Kershaw, who have really taken the next step. I'm just happy to be here in Southern California, in L.A. Not that I'm excited to be out of Boston or didn't want to be in Boston. It's just exciting to be with a team in contention."
It's not every day Magic Johnson greets you upon arrival and tells you how happy he is to meet you. Along with principal owner and CEO Mark Walter, Kasten and general manager Ned Colletti, Magic was thrilled to welcome the newest members of the troupe.
"He said he's excited for us to be here," Gonzalez said of Johnson, part of the ownership group. "He said he wanted to bring a championship to L.A. That's why we're here."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly knows a first-rate first baseman when he sees one, and places Gonzalez among the elite.
"Adrian's just quality," Mattingly said. "Everything I've ever seen from him is quality. I've been a fan of the way he plays. Adrian's one of those guys, everything about him is smooth. As you get into tougher competition, Adrian is going to shine."
Kemp, who will have the benefit of Gonzalez's protection behind him in the cleanup spot, applauded the latest move by Colletti with the support of an ownership willing to spend heavily to push toward baseball's October promised land.
"It gives us a lot more confidence," Kemp said. "That's a guy who drives in 100 plus runs every year. He's a possible 30- to 40-home run guy. He knows the National League well, and he's definitely going to help us tremendously."
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.