For a hitter, nothing beats an extended run at Coors. And for today's pitcher, the ultimate assignment is a date against the Rockies when they begin a road trip.
We've talked about the angle before - the thin air of Denver limits the effect of breaking pitches, and it takes a while for the Colorado offense to adjust when it leaves its home park. The Rockies have played seven such road debut games this year and they've been quick and tidy affairs: 1-6 record, nine total runs. Here's the scoring by game: 2, 2, 0, 5, 0, 0, 0.
Arizona lefty Tyler Skaggs took advantage of the voyaging Rockies in Friday's series opener, posting eight easy-breezy bagels en route to his second win (3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 5 K). The absence of Carlos Gonzalez helped, of course, but Cargo isn't going to produce five runs by himself.
"(Skaggs) reminded me of Barry Zito when he was with Oakland," said Michael Cuddyer, intending a compliment. ''He had a two-seamer away and then in the middle innings he started throwing that curveball, which is a plus-plus curveball." Here's a look at your scouting video; baby's got the bends.
Assuming Skaggs sticks in the rotation, he'll work against the Dodgers next week. "We'll see," Kirk Gibson told MLB.com. "Let's just leave that as TBD."
Colorado is on the road for the remainder of the first half, so it could be lean times for the offense. Two pitcher-friendly havens (San Diego, Los Angeles) are in play for next week. The Rockies are back in Coors for a delicious 10-game homestead (Cubs, Marlins, Brewers) to open the second half, then we'll look to exploit the post-Coors effect in Atlanta for three games at the end of July. Location, location, location.
• For the most part the Dodgers had a beat-the-traffic party in their 10-2 win at San Francisco (show us your Juan Uribe dance), but Matt Kemp's injury status clouded the outcome. Kemp tweaked his surgically repaired left shoulder during an early swing and was removed from the game in the third inning. Kemp subsequently had a cortisone shot in the shoulder and he's being listed as day-to-day.
If Kemp ultimately needs an extended rest, at least it will simplify the Dodgers outfield logjam. Carl Crawford came off the DL before Friday's game (he wasn't in the starting lineup), giving the team four potential starters on any night. Obviously Yasiel Puig needs to play regularly, and then there's the Andre Ethier problem (like so many Dodgers, he's saddled with an albatross contract).
Let's examine what skipper Don Mattingly said about his outfield before the game, prior to Kemp getting reinjured of course. Take it away, Ken Gurnick:
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said he met with his four starting outfielders Friday to tell them that one won't be a starting outfielder each game.
Mattingly said several factors will go into his daily decision, among them current form, individual matchups against opposing pitchers, health issues and preventative days off.
In the case of Crawford, who came off the disabled list Friday after straining a hamstring, Mattingly said he would be eased back into action in the same fashion as Hanley Ramirez and Mark Ellis were when they returned from pulled muscles. So Crawford was the first to sit, though he pinch-hit for Matt Kemp in the third inning after Kemp grabbed his surgically repaired left shoulder during a second-inning at-bat.
Mattingly said Kemp started Friday because he'd homered in the two previous games, even though his numbers against Giants starter Matt Cain (.216 lifetime) weren't great. Ethier, on the other hand, is .444 lifetime against Cain, making him an easy choice for the manager.
And Mattingly reiterated that as long as Puig keeps putting up three hits a game, he'll keep starting. "They understand the situation," Mattingly said. "I told them we'll do the best we can with it."
There are a lot of moving parts to this situation, but you need a projection base to consider. If I were shuffling up outfielders right this second, here's my range on the LA guys: Puig $23-25, Kemp $14-16 (so much injury baggage here), Crawford $11-13, Ethier $5-6.
• Given the hell Ike Davis has been in for most of 2013, we shouldn't begrudge the man a little good fortune. The ball seemed to be bouncing his way during his Friday return to the majors: one dribbling ground ball to shortstop turned into an infield hit, and a sharp one-hopper got past Rickie Weeks for another single. Davis finished the day with three singles, one walk, two runs scored and two RBIs.
The Mets aren't handling Davis with kid gloves - he immediately went back to his customary cleanup spot. Everyone remembers the tear Davis went on in the second half of 2012 and his bat was lively during a month tune-up in Triple-A (1.091 OPS, seven homers in 21 games), so it's a reasonable time to buy in - especially if you're in the second division and need to catch lightning in a bottle. There's plausible upside here. The mercurial Met is unclaimed in two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues.
• Logan Morrison has been off the radar for a while, but he's trying to get your attention again. The Miami tweet machine is off to a .323/.408/.597 start through 18 games, with three homers. The power has all come on the road, but the average has been fine everywhere. Morrison hasn't done a thing against lefties in 2013 but that wasn't a major problem for him in previous years. The two-position Marlin (1B, OF) is waiting for work in 90 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Speed Round: Baltimore closer Jim Johnson had another meltdown against the Yankees, but Buck Showalter gave Johnson a vote of confidence after the loss . . . . . . Ryan Braun (thumb) did some batting cage work Friday and is hoping to return before the All-Star break . . . Omar Infante (leg) remains out indefinitely, thanks to a Rasmus takeout slide earlier in the week . . . Edward Mujica rebounded with a clean save Friday, on the heels of his first blown opportunity of the year (it's always encouraging to see them back in form). Electric rookie Trevor Rosenthal set up with a three-strikeout eighth . . . Hiroki Kuroda (hip) was fine in bullpen work and will start Sunday against Baltimore, working on six days of rest . . . The recent J.J. Hardy slump might be tied to shoulder soreness, Roch Kubatko of MASN.com speculates . . . Oliver Perez received a matchup save in Cincinnati, though the Reds ultimately had two right-handed batters (one a pinch hitter) in the inning. The presence of Jay Bruce leading off probably drove Eric Wedge's decision to tab Perez instead of reinstated Tom Wilhelmsen. The Bartender remains the best long-term bet for saves here . . . Mike Leake allowed five hits and four runs over five innings against Seattle, his worst start in two months. Sometimes great matchups go bad. He'll work at Milwaukee before the break . . . It's been a good run for hackmaster Juan Francisco: five homers in nine games, along with four walks. He's worth considering as a temporary play at utility corner, so long as you can stomach the batting-average risk.