A Colorado Rockies lineup that featured the return of two starters nearly failed to score in the opener of this four-game set against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
It likely won't get any easier to get on the board against Clayton Kershaw.
The Dodgers have won five straight and have taken Kershaw's last seven home starts against the Rockies heading into Friday night's matchup.
Colorado (44-49) welcomed back Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler in Thursday's 6-1 loss. Tulowitzki had been out since June 13 with a fractured rib while Fowler last played June 25 due to a bone bruise in his right hand.
Each went 0 for 4, and the Rockies only avoided a shutout on Carlos Gonzalez's homer in the ninth inning.
Tulowitzki and Fowler have fared well against Kershaw (8-5, 1.89 ERA). Tulowitzki has nine hits in his last 26 at-bats versus the left-hander while Fowler has the most hits of any player against Kershaw, going 15 for 34.
It still figures to be a challenge for the Rockies against the pitcher with the lowest ERA and opponent batting average (.186) in the majors. Kershaw has won a season-high three straight outings, yielding three runs over 25 innings.
The middle game of that run was a four-hitter in an 8-0 victory July 2 at Coors Field.
Kershaw could produce similar results Friday since he's 4-0 with a 1.21 ERA in his last seven home starts against the Rockies - all victories for Los Angeles. He owns baseball's seventh-lowest run support average at 3.25, but could get some more help this time.
The Dodgers (46-45) have to like their chances against Juan Nicasio (4-4, 5.31), who went 0-3 with a 6.43 ERA in his last seven outings before he was sent to the minors June 27. Nicasio went 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA in two starts at Triple-A Colorado Springs, and the Rockies believe he will fare better now.
"It's throwing strikes, being in good counts, being more efficient," manager Walt Weiss told the Rockies' official website. "It's got to be a put-away pitch, so he doesn't have to deal with extended at-bats. We all know he's got the big arm, but it's a matter of being more efficient and getting strike one."
The right-hander is 1-2 with a 5.22 ERA in six career starts against the Dodgers. Andre Ethier is 7 for 12 against him while Nicasio has yet to face Cuban rookie sensation Yasiel Puig.
Ethier may be back in the lineup after he did not start Thursday, but he will have to begin a new hitting streak. He replaced Puig in center field and had a sacrifice fly in his lone at-bat, which was enough to end a nine-game run in which he went 16 for 38.
Mattingly said Puig had tweaked his left hip in his previous at-bat, so he was removed for precautionary reasons.
"It had been bothering me since I ran into the wall in Colorado,'' Puig said through an interpreter.
Mark Ellis had three hits and four RBIs as Los Angeles moved above .500 for the first time since April 15.
Puig, 7 for 17 against Colorado, finished second to Atlanta's Freddie Freeman in fan voting for the final NL All-Star spot.
The Dodgers have won 16 of 19 while the Rockies have dropped eight of 11.
"We're confident and we've got momentum,'' Mattingly said. "It's a good time to kind of keep it rolling knowing there are going to be days when it's not like this.''