Tonight's series of unfortunate, if not entirely surprising, events ended the Rockies' unlikely 6-0 road start and dropped them into a tie for first place in the NL West with the Dodgers. Mentioning that last bit seems like a silly thing to do on April 17, but I'm curious to see how many more days the Rockies spend in sole possession of first place this season.
Opening day starter (I'm gonna work this one for all it's worth) Kyle Kendrick lasted only 4-2/3 innings in his second consecutive disappointing start after a stellar 2015 debut. Before most of the nearly 49,000 fans had reached their seats, Kendrick had surrendered three runs in the first inning on an Adrian Gonzalez double and a two-run home run by fellow Kendrick, Howie. The Rockies never recovered from this opening salvo, but they did make things interesting a few times.
Things were interesting, but not in a good way, when Kershaw struck out the side in the top of the second before helping his own cause with a double in the bottom half of the inning. He was stranded at second, but responded by again setting the Rockies down in order in the third, pushing his strikeout total to six in the process.
It was looking like yet another textbook Kershaw performance until Troy Tulowitzki hit a screaming line drive over the left field fence in the top of the fourth. The ball probably never got more than twenty feet off the ground, but it was enough to pull the Rockies within two.
The gap almost closed to one when, with two outs and Wilin Rosario on second, Corey Dickerson lined a hard single into right field. Rosario was waved home, but Andre Ethier made a perfect throw to gun him down at the plate, killing the rally.
After working through the second and third innings with relatively little difficulty, Kendrick again ran into trouble in the fourth. He walked the leadoff man, Yasmani Grandal, before Andre Ethier reached on an infield single. DJ LeMahieu and Troy Tulowitzki turned a pretty double play on a Juan Uribe grounder, but Grandal advanced to third, where he would score on a wild pitch by Kendrick. What could have been a one-run margin the inning before was now three again. Dodger fans, now firmly in their seats, began doing the wave. Things looked bleak.
The Rockies weren't quite done yet, however. Drew Stubbs beat out an infield single in the top of the fifth and, after two more Kershaw strikeouts, Charlie Blackmon engaged the Dodger ace in a nine-pitch duel, fouling off pitches with Boggsian skill, before crushing a two-run homer over the right field wall. Suddenly it was a one-run game.
The only two left-handed batters to hit a HR off Clayton Kershaw since the start of 2014? Bryce Harper and Charlie Blackmon.— Purple Dino Podcast (@purpledinocast) April 18, 2015
Any hope of tying the score in the fifth ended when Kershaw burned Troy Tulowitzki with a brutal curveball for his tenth strikeout of the night. Even when the guy is human, he's wicked.
All the good feelings acquired in the previous inning faded away in the bottom of the fifth as, after Nolan Arenado nearly made another impossible grab down the third base line, Wilin Rosario failed to handle a tough ground ball from Carl Crawford at first. Crawford would score on a second double by possible robot Adrian Gonzalez, who in turn would be doubled home by Howie Kendrick, forcing the other Kendrick from the game. The margin was again three. With Scott Oberg pitching for the Rockies, things almost got really bad after Rosario was again unable to handle a ball at first, loading the bases. Luckily the marine layer held in a deep Joc Pederson fly ball, and the score was still 6-3.
In the top of the sixth, Rosario attempted to atone for his prior mistakes by doubling off Kershaw. Nick Hundley walked, and Rosario advanced to 3rd on a passed ball. Kershaw proceeded to make absolute fools of Corey Dickerson and Drew Stubbs in the next two at bats, closing his night with two more strikeouts to give him twelve in total.
The Dodgers added an insurance run in the seventh to make it 7-3, and the Rockies never threatened again, at least not on the scoreboard. In the top of the ninth, as the game neared 3-1/2 hours, Michael McKenry let go of his bat and it flew deep into the stands, landing in the concrete moat that separates the richest Dodger fans from the slightly less rich Dodger fans. Luckily it was the ninth inning of a multirun game at Dodger Stadium and no one was in the vicinity of the bat as it landed.
No one expected the Rockies to win this game, but they actually did a respectable job against Kershaw and, had Rosario been a little faster or had Ethier's throw been a little offline, they should have been in a decent position to win the game in the late innings. That's what makes Kyle Kendrick's performance so disappointing. If he had merely been serviceable tonight, the Rockies would have had a chance. One masterful start and two bad ones doesn't tell us a whole lot, and obviously Kendrick will probably average somewhere between the two extremes over the course of the season. One has to hope that he'll be closer to the former than the latter as the season progresses.
The bullpen was once again solid in extended service (Hawkins looked good again), but the innings are already starting to pile up. The Rockies will have to start getting better performances out of their starting pitching if they have any hope of staying in first place for much longer than tonight, and that starts tomorrow as Jordan Lyles takes on Zack Greinke.