Once considered a lock to win the NL West, the Los Angeles Dodgers are now battling to hold onto their lead.
A three-game series against the surging Colorado Rockies could go a long way toward re-establishing their early dominance or diminishing it further.
The Dodgers look to continue their season-long success against the second-place Rockies as the clubs square off Tuesday night at Coors Field.
Los Angeles (74-51) won 21 of its first 29 games and continued its strong play through the All-Star break, looking like it could run away with the division. Since taking a nine-game lead July 25, however, the Dodgers have gone 12-16.
In that same stretch, the wild-card leading Rockies (71-54) have gone 18-10 to climb within three games.
It looked like Colorado’s surge would hit a setback when it fell behind 4-1 in the 14th inning against San Francisco on Monday night, but Adam Eaton(notes) walked with the bases loaded and Ryan Spilborghs(notes) hit a walk-off grand slam to deliver a 6-4 victory.
The Rockies’ seventh win in eight games moved them four games ahead of the Giants in the division.
“It’s a two-game swing,” said manager Jim Tracy, a former Dodgers skipper who’s 53-26 since taking over the Rockies on May 29. “They’re looking like they’re going out of here two back and now they’re going home four. That’s absolutely huge.”
Colorado’s recent success figures to be tested by Los Angeles, which has won 10 of the clubs’ 12 meetings, including five of six in Denver. The Dodgers have averaged 6.6 runs and batted .306 in the series.
Los Angeles helped protect its division lead with three straight wins over the Chicago Cubs before dropping the series finale 3-1 on Sunday. The Nos. 3-6 hitters combined to go 0 for 12 with four strikeouts as the Dodgers finished with three hits—their lowest total since a season-low two in a 3-0 loss to Colorado on June 30.
“It’s a long season and that’s going to happen. We’re trying to hold the lead,” said outfielder Manny Ramirez(notes), who was 0 for 4 and struck out to end the game. “We won three out of four against Chicago, so it’s good. We’ve got to keep going and try to beat everyone.”
The 21-year-old left-hander gave up two runs and five hits in 3 2-3 innings and didn’t get a decision in the Dodgers’ 3-2 loss to St. Louis on Wednesday. He walked four in that game and has issued 15 in 19 innings over four August starts.
“I’m trying to throw the ball where I want to. It’s just not going there sometimes,” Kershaw said. “(Wednesday) was just a bad night. I hate that term learning process, but I guess it’s part of it.”
Kershaw gave up a career-high nine runs in 4 2-3 innings to lose his first start against Colorado this season April 26. He’s 1-0 with a 2.45 ERA in two starts against the Rockies since then, both Dodgers wins.
Colorado will hand the ball to Jason Hammel(notes) (8-7, 4.54), who was the tough-luck loser against Kershaw on July 1. Hammel limited Los Angeles to one run and five hits over eight innings in that game but still suffered the 1-0 defeat. He’s 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in three career games - one start - against the Dodgers.
Hammel delivered another strong outing Thursday, allowing one run and three hits in seven innings to beat Washington 4-1, his third win in four starts.
The Dodgers and Rockies don’t meet again until the final series of the regular season Oct. 2-4 in Los Angeles.
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