Rockies lose power struggle
Newcomer De La Rosa cannot slow Dodgers' dominance
DENVER -- The Dodgers came at Colorado with a death-by-dink approach Saturday night, touching starter Jorge De La Rosa for six hits in the first two innings, hitting seeing-eye grounders that found their way to the outfield and dinking in bloop singles, falling in the netherlands between the edge of the infield and the charging outfielders.
Before the Dodgers secured their 12-7 victory -- their fifth straight over the Rox this season and eighth in a row overall -- the game evolved into a slugfest, with extra-base hits abounding for both clubs as they combined for 19 runs and 25 hits, 11 for extra bases. But as they built an early 6-0 lead, the Dodgers had only two hard-hit balls, a screaming grounder in the first from Matt Kemp through the hole on the left side of the infield and a three-run double into the left-center gap two batters later by James Loney.
"Not every ball was barreled, but enough were," manager Clint Hurdle said. "Not enough strikes, not crisp enough command" from De La Rosa, making his Rockies debut after being traded from the Royals.
De La Rosa was challenged by ineffective breaking pitches and by an inability to get strikes on the inside part of the plate against right-handers. His changeup was effective, but his lack of consistency with his fastball command made it too easy for the Dodgers to sit on his pitches.
"I made a lot of mistakes and threw a lot of pitches in four innings," De La Rosa said after tying his career-high nine runs allowed. "I tried to be aggressive. I think I was overthrowing a little bit in the first two innings. My curve didn't work good. I have to do something to be better next start. I have to forget this game and get ready for the next one."
The Rockies refused to be defined by the early deficit, choosing instead to fight fire with fire. Todd Helton led off the second inning with a hard-hit grounder off the reaching glove of second baseman Jeff Kent, stretching it into a double as it died on that no-man's-land grass in shallow center. The Rockies took off from there, mounting a three-run second and pairing it with a three-run third to tie the game as Matt Holliday hit a leadoff homer and Garrett Atkins laced a one-out double down the left-field line to drive starter Esteban Loaiza from the game after 2 1/3 innings. Brad Hawpe greeted reliever Hong-Chih Kuo by drilling his first pitch for a game-tying two-run homer, the second of his three hits on the night.
"It felt good, it's part of the game," Hawpe said of his offensive surge, equaling his season peak for hits and driving in a season-high four runs. "Sometimes you have rough games, sometimes you have good games. You just got to realize that at the end of the year, things are going to be right there where they need to be."
De La Rosa temporarily recovered from his first two innings, showing resilience as he retired nine of the 10 batters he faced from the middle of the second through a nine-pitch fourth inning. He ran out of gas in the fifth, however, giving up a leadoff single to Kent and walking Russell Martin before Loney launched a hanging slider into the right-field seats for a three-run homer and his sixth RBI of the night. Having squandered the Rockies comeback, De La Rosa left with the three-run deficit.
"It's something to build off of, but the bottom line is after his best inning, he got in trouble in the next inning," Hurdle said. "He was retiring some guys, he looked like he was getting a little rhythm, and then the wheels came off in the fifth right away."
With both lineups showing their explosive potential by forcing early exits from the starters, bullpen pitching was at a premium, with the Rockies relievers allowing three of the 12 runs while the Dodgers 'pen held the Rox to one run over the final 5 2/3 innings.
"We kept trying to come back, but they have a good bullpen," Hawpe said. "Their bullpen's tough, and they shut the door down on us."
The Rockies cracked it open again in the ninth inning, staging a last-gasp rally with Takashi Saito on the mound, sparked by a leadoff double from Clint Barmes and a walk to Holliday. That brought Helton to the plate, with memories of his dramatic game-winning homer against Saito last September bringing the fans to their feet. Helton drove a ball deep to left, but Juan Pierre made a leaping snow-cone catch against the fence, stopping the rally in its tracks. Garrett Atkins followed with a drive to the right-field warning track, but Kemp was able to pull it in safely.
The loss marked the sixth time the Rockies have scored five runs or more without claiming a victory this season, a discouraging stat for an on-again, off-again offense that has averaged 4.23 runs per game. The Rockies won the National League title with an average 5.31 runs/game last season.
"The numbers aren't that much skewed from last year," Hurdle said, looking at the full range of early-season stats, including the Rockies' 11-19 record, 10 games behind the NL West-leading Diamondbacks. "That being said, they're unacceptable. They're not what we need. That isn't something to hold on to.
"We're at that fine line right now: we can't wait for things to happen, and we don't need to step on the gas pedal so hard we're forcing things to happen. We need to take what the games present. The game's hard for us right now. We just got to keep working. There's work to be done, there's no doubt about that."
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.