I wrote earlier this week that facing Clayton Kershaw would tell us a lot about this team. What happened and what did we learn from Friday night’s game?
- Clayton Kershaw may not yet be on his game, but he is still a fantastic pitcher – 6IP 6 Hits 3 Runs 1BB and 12 Ks
- The Rockies road hitting still includes a lot of strikeouts throughout the line-up.
- The Rockies group of right-handed bats are pretty weak.
- Wilin Rosario is not a great first baseman.
All those factors may not look good, and losing your first game on the road hurts. But there were a lot of positives in the game as well:
- The Rockies did score 3 runs, which is 2 more than they did 3 games last year against Kershaw.
- Their 6 hits is 1 more than they got all of last year vs. Kershaw
- They hit two homers vs. Kershaw. I looked it up and the last time the Rockies hit a homer off Kershaw was back when I was using a Blackberry, my youngest child was 1 and not yet potty-trained, and George W. Bush was president. July 22, 2008, in Kershaw’s rookie year (the only year he didn’t have an ERA under 4). That many was one Brad Hawpe, who hit the last homer off Kershaw (that one at home) before last night. The Rockies had NEVER hit a homer off him in Dodgers Stadium. Tulo and Blackmon going deep (especially the lefty Blackmon taking Kershaw deep) is a sign this team is different on the road than last year.
Sadly, with all that positive information, the Rockies lost 7-3. But this was a game that the team very well could have won. The problem wasn’t the scoring off Kershaw (or the very average and susceptible bullpen). The problem was the starting pitching, again. And who was it again? One Kyle Kendrick. In a pitcher’s park he gave up another home run, 4 doubles, and 7 hits (along with true killer, 4 walks). He was bad from the get-go, walking the leadoff man Rollins (with 4 straight balls after an opening strike), a double to Adrian Gonzalez, and then a homer to the Dodgers strange clean-up hitter, 2nd baseman Howie Kendricks. He put the team in a whole immediately, putting extra strain on offense to score and the bullpen to get ready for action. The Rox then were unable to counter, going 1-2-3 with…all strikeouts of course.
When Tulo hit his rocket in the 4th, Kendrick allowed another run (on a wild pitch with Kershaw batting, argh!!), again putting the Rockies down 3. In the 5th, Blackmon homered with Stubbs aboard to bring the game back to a 1 run margin. So in the bottom of the 5th the Rockies were in a 1-run game against Kershaw, with momentum. Kendrick then proceeded through a series of doubles to allow the Dodgers to get back to a comfortable 3 run margin at 6-3. Kendrick departed at that point and Scott Oberg, despite bad defence from Rosario, close the inning.
But to their credit the Rox kept trying to get back into the game. In the 6th, against Kershaw, a double and the one walk of the night created a 3rd and 1st, 1-out situation. A homer here ties it. Up comes Corey Dickerson, who had a sharp single against Kershaw in the 4th that would have scored Rosario…except for a great throw by Andre Ethier to cut Baby Bull down at the plate. So Dickerson proved he could hit the best lefty in baseball. And indeed he got his pitch…but missed it just enough to foul out. Kershaw dropped a 75mph curve on Corey after 3 straight 94mph fastballs. Corey turned left and headed back to teh dugout. 2 outs, Kershaw over 100 pitches and up steps the last guy we want right now facing a strikeout pitcher. Drew Stubbs is a good player but he is in a world class K-Funk. The last 6 pitches of the night show why Kershaw is, IMHO, the best pitcher in baseball. He showed Stubbs 2 4-seam FB, 2 sliders, a curve that thankfully was in the dirt, and then after a 94mph fastball Stubbs fouled, threw an 86 mph slider that essentially ended the night as Stubbs took the K and headed back to centerfield.
From there, the game was essentially over. Oberg had a great 6th, Friedrich allowed his first run on two singles and sac fly. The last 3 innings, the Rox managed just one single from Arenado – 1-10, and went silently into the good night.
Did the Rockies battle Kershaw? Yes! They had their best outing against him since they laid 5 on him at Coors in 2008. They came a foul ball from Dickerson that with the swing would have been gone from tying the game. They hit homes. They did strike out a lot, but they made Kershaw work and work hard (104 pitches when its only April 17th, and in just 6 innings). They showed me something, though there are clearly issues (this team needs another right-handed bat that can hit – Kyle Parker maybe, heck even Barnes). The bullpen was excellent again, allowing the 1-run over 3.1 innings, and just 3 singles and whatever you want to call that thing in the 5th when Oberg made a great play on the Uribe squiber). Everyone gives up runs and this was a good time for Friedrich to give up his first of the season (his velocity was down and had trouble with his curve). The pen isn’t spent thanks to nice work from Oberg.
But there is a growing pink elephant in the room. Kendrick was brought in to be a staff mentor, a solid pitcher, a #3 guy (when he really is a #5). He was great on opening day. But his last two starts are the cause of 2 of the teams 3 losses. He is giving up homers, he is walking a lot of guys, and he is getting hit hard. Worse, as we saw against the Cubs, when his team scores to make the game close, he goes out and gives up runs…every time it seems. The team gets De La Rose this week. Lyles has been a bit better than 2014, which is good. Matzek was, after the 1st, pretty special against the Giants. Even Butler is getting a bit better each start. But Kendrick right now is an offense and bullpen killer. I really don’t know what to do, but two more of these and management is going to have to do something (a lot depends on guys like Bettis, Grey, and surprisingly Lannen, who has been great in AAA). A few years back had 3 guys with sub 4 ERAs (2013, De La Rosa, Chacin, Chatwood). The team was great when they pitched. The problem was their #4 and #5s killed them. In their 81 starts they were 38-21. But on a 74 win team, you know the rest.
Is Kyle Kendrick the 2015 version of John Garland? If so, what do they do? But for once, I actually think this team can challenge teams on the road. Last year they meekly went into that bad night as Kershaw celebrated a near perfect game. They made him work. Can they get more runs and hits? That remains to be seen. Can they challenge a bullpen? Again, lets see. But in a game where Blackmon and Dickerson have hard hits against the best lefty in the business, we have hope.
And this year is all about returning hope to the fans.