Friday night the Colorado Rockies began a three game series against the visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers had only won eight games on the road this year, entering the game with a disappointing 22-30 record. New ownership, including Magic Johnson, has made the Dodgers the west coast version of the Yankees. The difference is the Yankees win. It’s a matter of under-performing, however, and not a lack of talent.
Luckily for the Rockies they will not have to face all-star center fielder Matt Kemp due to a visit on the disabled list. However the Rockies faced arguably the best pitcher in baseball Friday night as Clayton Kershaw (5-3) took the hill against Jon Garland (3-6). Kershaw leads the Majors with a 1.68 ERA, and Garland had lost his last four starts; that is all you need to know to comprehend the pitching mismatch.
This is the kind of series that can reverse both teams’ movement up or down in the standings. The Rockies have been slumping of late losing three of four against Houston, and are two games behind the first place Diamondbacks. L.A. is playing very poorly but they are only seven games out of first place. A good series for either team would be a huge boost in momentum and tell a story of what’s to come in the NL West.
After a perfect first two innings by Garland, the Dodgers would strike first in the third inning. It started with a hit batter in Luis Cruz, followed by three hits and a walk to score three runs. The bleeding stopped when Troy Tulowitzki turned a nice double play. A three run lead is more than enough for a pitcher of Kershaw’s caliber. If it wasn’t bad enough to face Kershaw on the mound, he is also a good hitting pitcher. The 25-year-old former Cy Young winner would double to drive in two more runs to make the score 5-0 Dodgers.
The Rockies started to claw back slowly against Kershaw, who finished with 8 innings pitched, gave up 3 earned runs, and fanned 5 Rockies. In the fourth inning Dexter Fowler would get the first Rockies hit of the game, followed by a close play on what was ruled an infield single for Tulowitzki. Dex would score on a Michael Cuddyer single, Tulo scored when Wilin Rosario grounded out, and it was 5-2 Dodgers. Rosario would drive in a third run but not get credit for it when he hit into a bases-loaded double play in the eighth inning: 5-3 Dodgers.
The best thing about the Rockies having and playing young players like Jordan Pacheco and Nolan Arenado is that veterans like Todd Helton can be used off the bench when not in the lineup. In the bottom of the ninth the “Toddfather” would pinch hit with D.J. LeMahieu on base and foul off five pitches in a row before getting one he wanted and driving it into the second deck in right field. That tied the game at five a side going into extras.
Rafael Betancourt came into pitch in the 10th inning and it didn’t take long for him to get into trouble. The first batter of the inning, former Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez, led off with a single. It was a poor stroke of luck when with one out a Luis Cruz line drive hit off Betancourt to prevent the double play. The Dodgers took the lead on the play. Another former Rockie, Juan Uribe, would single once more to drive in a second run in the inning. Dodgers win 7-5.
Although it was not a save situation Betancourt pitched the tenth inning, possibly just to get work and help the three other relievers that had already pitched thanks to Garland’s short outing. It is never a good thing when slumping offense meets all-star pitching and is then followed by a slumping closer. The good news is the month of May is over. They finish the month winning only 42% of their games after winning 59% of the games played in April. The team is still above .500 and only 2.5 games out of first place, it is officially time for the Rockies to stop losing ground.