Visiting teams are best advised to check their formula for winning at the front gate and pick it up on the flight out of Denver. That also applies to the Colorado Rockies, who have tried every formula in the franchise-building book and have failed. Since Coors opened in 1995, the Rockies have missed the playoffs in 17 of 20 seasons.
There was no recognizable formula for the Dodgers’ win. Their hottest pitcher and position player, Clayton Kershaw and Yasiel Puig, were both on the field when Monday’s game began, but both were on the bench by the end of the Dodgers’ 10-8 win. Puig didn’t finish the game healthy and the major-league leader in innings pitched came nowhere close to finishing the game, getting yanked after five innings and 81 pitches. A series of mental errors, physical errors and pitching changes added up to a choppy game.
That said, the Dodgers were more good than bad on Monday afternoon. Andre Ethier hit two doubles and a home run, becoming the first Dodgers player with seven consecutive 30-double seasons. Kershaw, Mark Ellis and Carl Crawford had two hits apiece. Brandon League, Brian Wilson, Ronald Belisario and Kenley Jansen did just enough to avert disaster in pitching one inning apiece out of the bullpen. That in turn allowed Kershaw to somehow win his 14th game — one behind four different pitchers for the National League lead — despite allowing five runs in five innings.
As for Puig, he left the game in the sixth inning with a mild right knee strain. According to multiple postgame Tweets out of Denver, Puig sustained the injury before today and will skip tomorrow’s game as a precaution.
Puig reached first base in the sixth on a throwing error by third baseman Nolan Arenado. Rockies pitcher Jeff Manship attempted to pick Puig off before throwing a pitch to Adrian Gonzalez, and Puig may have suffered the injury diving back to the bag. A television replay showed Puig grimacing at first base after the throw-over.
Puig advanced from first to third on Gonzalez’s single, then rose to his feet very slowly after sliding in foot-first. With Dodgers third-base coach Tim Wallach looking on, Puig pointed to his kneecap, remained in the game and scored on a sacrifice fly by Hanley Ramirez. Skip Schumaker took over in right field in the bottom of the sixth inning.
Taking advantage of their spacious home field, the Rockies had a great deal of success hitting the ball to the opposite field against Kershaw; whether other teams will emulate this strategy remains to be seen. For all his success elsewhere, Kershaw (14-8) has never had much success in his career at Coors. Neither have a lot of pitchers.
It didn’t help that the Dodgers ran themselves out of a run with two outs in the third inning when A.J. Ellis was caught in a rundown between first and second on an unsuccessful double-steal attempt. Mark Ellis took off from third base but crossed home plate after A.J. Ellis was tagged out.
In the ninth inning, with Mark Ellis on first base and Ethier on third, A.J. Ellis hit a ground ball behind third base. Ethier took off for home plate on the play and was going to be out by such a wide margin on Arenado’s throw, he chose to get in a rundown.
In the first inning, Puig himself was caught unaware of rule 7.08(b), interfering with second baseman D.J. LeMahieu en route to second base and costing the Dodgers an out (and probably a run).
While the Dodgers did enough to overcome those gaffes, and Gonzalez’s 10th fielding error of the season at first base, the Rockies couldn’t say the same for Arenado’s error and a first-inning throw by first baseman Jordan Pacheco that missed second base badly — it might have hit Ramirez in the shoulder — and allowed Crawford to score.
A few more bullet points:
• The box score is here.
• The Dodgers lead the Arizona Diamondbacks by 12 ½ games in the National League West. Their magic number to clinch the division is 14.
• The Dodgers are 52-13 since June 22. No team has won more games in a 65-game stretch since 1954 (Indians).
• Michael Young made his Dodgers debut as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning. He struck out on three pitches, the last a check-swing that first base umpire Manny Gonzalez considered a tad too far.
• The box score from Rancho Cucamonga is here. Matt Kemp went 0 for 4 as the Quakes’ designated hitter in an 8-1 loss but didn’t strike out.