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By The Sports Xchange July 13, 2013 2:30 AM
He saw pop, he saw location, and most important, he saw bravado. Fresh off a stint at Triple-A Colorado Springs and facing a lineup that ranks among the hottest in the game, Nicasio shook off his recent funk and stuck out his chest, ready to go toe to toe with a team that had won 16 of 19. Two pitches in and 99 later, Nicasio doused a scorching Los Angeles Dodgers lineup in a 3-0 Rockies win at Dodger Stadium. "This was huge; for him to get sent down, and for this to be his first start back says a lot about him," LeMahieu said. "You could tell the first two pitches. He was hitting his spots. I felt like this could be a good night and it was for him." Los Angeles entered the game with 55 hits this week through four games, including 17-, 15- and 13-hit performances. Nicasio came in straight from the minors. He had posted a 5.31 ERA -- including 6.48 in June -- during his previous callup before he was sent down a level to right his head. Boy, did he. Nicasio allowed three hits in seven scoreless innings before giving way to Rex Brothers to open the eighth after 101 pitches and 67 strikes. The outing was Nicasio's best of the year, topping a six-inning, three-hit effort against San Francisco on May 19, and just Colorado's second road shutout of the year. Rockies manager Walt Weiss said the two discussed going at the Los Angeles lineup, attacking and not dancing around danger. "It made sense to him when we talked to him about it," Weiss said. "It's not easy, but nothing is easy. You have to run into a lineup like that that's playing probably better than anyone in the game, and he's struggled, and for him to step up like he did was huge for the team, but huge, huge for him." Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said, "I thought the guy did a nice job of getting ahead in the count. He's kind of one of those effectively wild guys, if he throws enough strikes. He's got good stuff; I don't think his stuff has ever been a question." Rex Brothers and Rafael Betancourt pitched scoreless innings in the eighth and ninth, respectively, with Betancourt picking up the save. Nicasio's dominant performance, which evened his career mark at 11-11, overshadowed Clayton Kershaw's bid for a fourth straight win. Kershaw allowed six hits and three runs in seven innings, despite striking out 10, and he was saddled for his first loss since June 21. "Clayton was fine; early on, he seemed a little rough with location," Mattingly said. "But typical Clayton, what's he got, almost 50 pitches after two? And he gets himself through the seventh with just a tick over 100? He did a nice job battling." LeMahieu had three hits and an RBI for Colorado and Charlie Blackmon had two hits. Nicasio dazzled the Dodgers through five innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out three. Nicasio was efficient and effective, needing just 72 pitches to get through five, 50 of which were strikes. "Today, I was working on my command and my fastball," Nicasio said. "I had to throw the fastball for strike, down in the zone, get the sink in. It was all good." Weiss said, "That was a clutch performance by Juan. To shut down a team like that when they're rolling like they are. ... very impressive. Fastball was really good, he threw some nice changeups tonight -- the best changeup he's had all year -- but his fastball was the key." Kershaw, meanwhile, found himself in an early predicament. He allowed the opening base runner to reach in three of the first five innings, and Colorado did not let the opportunities go to waste. The Rockies scored twice in the first inning to claim the early lead -- they are 0-21 on the road this year when the opponent scores first -- as Troy Tulowitzki scored Dexter Fowler with a sacrifice fly and Wilin Rosario singled home LeMaheiu. LeMaheiu padded the cushion in the fifth with an RBI single that scored Nolan Arenado, who scored to open the inning. "You look at the stats and getting the first guy on is how you score runs," Blackmon said. "Not only that, but to do it consistently is going to put him under a lot of pressure. He wasn't just cruising. He had to work from the stretch and bear down." NOTES: Los Angeles LF Carl Crawford was scratched from the lineup with back stiffness. Scott Schumaker got the start. ... Colorado LHP Drew Pomeranz was optioned to Triple-A Colorado Springs after being drilled on Thursday night against the Dodgers. Pomeranz allowed seven hits and three runs in four innings before being sent down to make room for Nicasio. ... Puig was pulled because hip soreness for the second straight game. He lasted four-plus innings on Friday before being pulled for Skip Schumaker. ... Los Angeles has gained eight games in the standings since June 22.