Coors Field moonshots give Dodgers rookie four straight games with HR
By Ken Gurnick
DENVER -- Mike Piazza didn't have 16 home runs through 52 games his first full rookie season, neither did Raul Mondesi or Eric Karros or Yasiel Puig.
So Joc Pederson is already in unchartered territory for a Dodgers rookie slugger after homering in both ends of Tuesday's doubleheader split with the Rockies. Pederson also tripled home a tying run in the wild 9-8 nightcap win and finished the twin bill 3-for-8 with four RBIs and home runs in four consecutive games.
For those impressed by how far a man can hit a baseball, even though this is the mile-high air of Coors Field, Statcast™ projected his first-game homer as landing 477 feet away, MLB's fifth-longest homer this year. It was a two-run shot and provided the bulk of the Dodgers' scoring in a 6-3 loss to the Rockies.
The second-game solo homer also went to center field. Statcast™ projected his second blast at 472 feet, which is the 10th-longest homer this season.
As has often been the case with the Dodgers this season, Pederson was a bright spot in the series opener, even after opening the game by bunting an 0-2 pitch foul for a strikeout.
"He's trying to get on base; good move if it works," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. "When it doesn't, and he hits a home run next time, you look at it differently."
Although Pederson's at-bats seem to end mostly in home runs, strikeouts and walks, Mattingly said he's fine with the rookie's approach and fine with using him as a leadoff hitter.
"You want him to get on base, and he's close to .400; I think he's doing OK," Mattingly said. "We like what Joc's doing."
Pederson's first 12 homers were off right-handed pitchers, and the first-game blasts gave him three straight off lefties, but Mattingly said Pederson adjusted well to left-handers last year at Triple-A and Pederson said he was not surprised by his recent slugging against lefties.
"You guys are the ones who say I can't hit lefties," Pederson said. "I hit them fine last year. I guess you guys can tell me."
Already trying to plug the gaps left from having two starting pitchers lost for the season, the Dodgers tried unsuccessfully in Game 1 to piece together a bullpen game. An injury-riddled batting order was as much to blame as the five relievers Mattingly marched to the mound; Los Angeles managed only four other hits and had one runner erased at the plate.
"Pitching-wise, we were OK," Mattingly said generously. The losing pitcher was left-handed reliever Ian Thomas, obtained last week from Atlanta in the Juan Uribe trade.
Thomas worked three innings but allowed four runs, two on Michael McKenry's home run after Pederson's 15th homer gave the Dodgers a brief 3-2 lead.
Thomas followed two innings from "starter" Juan Nicasio, touched for one run on an infield single. Lefty J.P. Howell took a line drive off his non-throwing biceps muscle but continued for a scoreless inning, matched by David Huff (who was designated for assignment after the game), while Chris Hatcher allowed a solo home run to Ben Paulsen. Mattingly wasn't as kind to his offense, which was contained by Coors Field specialist Jorge De La Rosa (46-15 in his career amid thin air).
"We didn't do enough," Mattingly said. "Five hits? We didn't have enough chances. With Howie [Kendrick] up, we had people all over the place, just didn't do enough to deserve to win."
Mattingly was essentially boiling down his offense's best chance to the fifth inning, when with two outs and nobody on De La Rosa lost sight of the plate. He walked Thomas and Pederson, allowed a single to Chris Heisey (called up when Scott Van Slyke was placed on the disabled list) to load the bases, then walked Adrian Gonzalez to tie the game at 3. But Kendrick struck out to end the inning.
Statcast™: Longest home run projected distance in 2015
1. Nelson Cruz, Mariners: 482.6791 ft. April 15 vs. Rangers at Globe Life Park
2. Josh Donaldson, Blue Jays: 481.2337 ft. April 23 vs. Orioles at Rogers Centre
3. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: 478.4085 ft. May 16 vs. Braves at Marlins Park
4. Kris Bryant, Cubs: 477.4428 ft. May 26 vs. Nationals at Wrigley Field
5. Joc Pederson, Dodgers: 476.826 ft. June 2 vs. Rockies at Coors Field
6. Brandon Belt, Giants: 475.4028 ft. May 22 vs. Rockies at Coors Field
7. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins: 474.8186 ft. May 12 vs. Marlins at Dodger Stadium
8. Ryan Braun, Brewers: 474.0424 ft. May 25 vs. Giants at Miller Park
9. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins. 473.8386 ft. May 15 vs. Braves at Marlins Park
10. Joc Pederson, Dodgers, 471.6 ft. June 2 vs. Rockies at Coors Field
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.