The Colorado Rockies looked destined to reach the expanded playoff field two weeks into the season. They won 11 of their first 14 and were getting solid starting pitching and clutch hitting.
With 10 games remaining, Colorado is staring at an early offseason after dropping its third straight Friday night. The Rockies (22-28) have lost eight of their past 10, the last two coming against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and the task only gets harder Saturday.
Los Angeles continued rolling with a 15-6 win Friday in Denver.
In the third of a four-game series, lefty Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the Dodgers while the Rockies counter with right-hander Chi Chi Gonzalez in what has become a must-win situation for Colorado.
The Rockies’ struggles have come both on the mound and at the plate. Entering Friday, Colorado had scored just 12 runs in five games, and when it has managed some offense, the pitchers haven’t been able to silence the opponents’ bats.
The Dodgers (37-15) have outscored the Rockies 24-9 in the first two games of the series.
Despite the Rockies’ inconsistent offense, manager Bud Black is sticking with his best player, Nolan Arenado, even as he struggles through a sub-par season by his standards.
Arenado is a career .293 hitter who began 2020 riding a streak of five consecutive seasons with at least 37 home runs and 110 RBIs. With eight homers and 25 RBIs this year, Arenado has a slugging percentage (.441) and a batting average (.257) that are at their lowest points since his rookie season in 2013.
“You want your best hitters to get the most at-bats, and that’s how we are lining it up,” Black said. “There’s really nobody, right now, really hot. (Raimel) Tapia is holding his own, leading off, and I think he’s a good fit at the top of the lineup. But I don’t think there is any magic lineup or movement of lineup that will really get anybody going.”
Colorado needs to find some magic against Kershaw (5-2, 2.28 ERA), who has plenty of experience facing the Rockies. In 42 career starts against them, he is 23-8 with a 3.28 ERA.
Kershaw likely will be throwing to catcher Austin Barnes on Saturday night, a pairing that might carry over once the playoffs start.
“The synergy that (Kershaw) and Austin have, I think, is real,” manager Dave Roberts said. “You’ve got to certainly appreciate it. They have history. This is a four-year history that they’ve built a relationship.
“They think along the same lines. … I still believe the body of work Austin and Clayton have, there’s something to it.”
Kershaw will add to his win total if the Dodgers keep pounding Colorado pitching, beginning with Gonzalez. The 28-year-old Florida native is taking Jon Gray’s spot in the rotation after Gray was shut down for the regular season due to right shoulder soreness.
Gonzalez (0-1, 8.68 ERA) has been roughed up in his two starts this season but he has had some success against Los Angeles over the years. He is 1-0 with a 2.66 ERA in four games, three starts, against the Dodgers. In his first season with Colorado in 2019, Gonzalez went 1-0 with a 2.93 ERA in three games, two starts.
–Field Level Media