With the Memorial Day holiday weekend about to go into full swing, the race in the National League West starts to heat up also. The unofficial beginning of summer marks when television and radio announcers can no longer say “it’s still early”, with a third of the season soon to be completed. The Dodgers and Rockies meet for a second time in 2010, this time in Colorado.
Both clubs are chasing confounding San Diego, with Los Angeles (26-21, -1.2 units) two games back in the standings and Colorado (25-22, +0.7) three behind.
The Rockies have been ravaged by injuries to their pitching staff, but have started to overcome them riding a five-game winning streak. The Colorado offense has started to hit its stride in winning six of seven, scoring 5.4 runs per game and moving up to sixth overall in the National League. In their last four games the Rocks have launched 11 home runs.
The Dodgers offense has been feast or famine this season. Los Angeles is fourth in the NL at 4.9 RPG, but they were shut out twice at Wrigley Field this week, giving them seven zeros already, after being held scoreless just nine times in 2009.
As per usual Colorado is enjoying the benefits of Coors Field and are 14-7 (+4.8) at home and will start Jeff Francis (1-0, 0.68 ERA), who missed all of 2009 with shoulder surgery. In his two starts this year, Francis looks very much like the pitcher that won 17 games and led Rockies to World Series. Sportsbooks have Francis and teammates as -152 money line favorites and they are 18-3 as a home chalk of -150 to -175 over the last two seasons.
The Dodgers are still looking for another starting pitcher and give the ball to Carlos Monasterios (1-0, 1.90) for a second time. Monasterios has 10 other relief appearances but is excited about another opportunity. “I like starting,” said the rookie right-hander. With the total at 9.5, Monasterios will attempt to do his part and improve L.A.’s 40-20 record when the total is 9 to 9.5.
Game 1 Edge: Colorado
Colorado is feeling really good about their recent play coming into the series. “We’re definitely playing better,” said Troy Tulowitzki, who’s homered four times in five games. “We’re playing defense, pitching a little better and getting some timely hitting, mixed in with some power.”
Since last season the Rockies are 41-16 at home after three or more consecutive Coors contests and will have Aaron Cook (1-3. 5.40) on the hill. Cook’s strength as a pitcher is nibbling on the corners and keeping his heavy fastball low in the strike zone. To date he has lacked his usual efficiency and has as many walks as strikeouts (25). He’s going to need more control to extend his team’s 5-0 record when he starts at home.
The Dodgers have certainly held the upper hand against Colorado recently. Los Angeles is 17-5 against the Rocks since the beginning of last year and has won eight consecutive series dating back to Sept. 2008. Joe Torre’s club has also emerged victorious nine of previous 12 at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Hiroki Kuroda (5-2, 3.03) has been most effective this season, pitching at least into the sixth inning in all his starts and allowing more than three runs just once. Manager Torre moved Kuroda back a day in the rotation and he and his blue-capped team are 11-3 when he pitches with five days of rest.
Game 2 Edge: L.A. Dodgers
The series finale is a solid pitching matchup featuring lefty Clayton Kershaw (4-3, 2.90) against Jhoulys Chacin (3-2, 3.09). Kershaw has been living up to all the potential heaped on him the last few years and has 0.64 ERA in his last four starts with 27 K’s in 28 1/3 innings. Coors Field hasn’t been his favorite place to pitch with 2-2 record and 6.92 ERA. The Dodgers are 7-8 in day games and Kershaw has to command the strike zone with his 91-95 mph fastball to set up his “Uncle Charley” curve.
Like Kershaw, Chacin is also 22 years old and has a five pitch arsenal that can baffle hitters. He’s harnessed his control (13 W, 30 K) and only permitted 22 hits over 32 innings with opposing batters nicking him for .188 batting average. He’ll be facing the Dodgers for the second time, having pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings against Los Angeles on May 8. Colorado is much better in day games with 12-7 record and with these two young starters, the Rockies might add another UNDER to 13-5-1 mark in day baseball.
Game 3 Edge: L.A. Dodgers
Haven’t been very good in picking series winners thus far and instead will follow a little football logic of never better against a strong trend. The Dodgers have owned Colorado the last few seasons and not have to face Ubaldo Jimenez has me leaning with Torre’s troops.
Series odds: Los Angeles +115, Colorado -145
3Daily Winners Pick: L.A. Dodgers
2010 Record – 2-5