McCarthy stymies Rockies in season debut

McCarthy stymies Rockies in season debut

LOS ANGELES -- Brandon McCarthy is the latest starter to step up in the absence of ace Clayton Kershaw, making a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery on Sunday as the Dodgers finished off a series sweep of Colorado, 4-1, for their fourth consecutive win.

In his first big league game since blowing out his elbow April 25, 2015, McCarthy struck out eight in a two-hitter over five scoreless innings, making 72 pitches and hitting 95 mph. Kenley Jansen earned his 24th save.

"It was surprisingly normal," said McCarthy. "I wasn't really expecting it to feel like I'd just get in the swing of things, but it felt normal. I didn't feel too nervous. There wasn't anything going on that I wasn't expecting. Just settled in normally."

McCarthy followed winning starts by Kenta Maeda, Bud Norris and Scott Kazmir in the wake of Kershaw's back injury, so it was as much a boon to the team as it was personally. The four starters have allowed one run in 23 innings since Kershaw's diagnosis Thursday.

McCarthy's strong start

"He continued what the starters have done this entire series," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "The results notwithstanding, there was no panic, people weren't feeling sorry for ourselves. All the guys have really taken it and embraced it and they're stepping up. The wins are a coincidence, but the intent to play hard and pitch well, there was a purpose behind it. Winning four in row since Clayton, yes, but we understand there's a lot of slack to pick up and we've got to keep going."

The Rockies, whose only run came on Daniel Descalso's seventh-inning homer off Casey Fien, have lost five straight and matched a season-worst by falling to seven games below .500. It was the seventh time they were limited to two or fewer runs in a three-game series. Their 41 strikeouts were second-most in a three-game series in club history -- one fewer than a series at Dodger Stadium in May 2003.

The Dodgers scored three runs in the second off Jon Gray, who followed a leadoff homer by Trayce Thompson by hitting Howie Kendrick with a pitch, then walking the next three batters, including McCarthy. Gray was solid from there, with no other runs in his six innings; however, he has a 7.33 ERA in the first two innings this season.

"That's something I'm working on," said Gray, who gave up six hits and struck out three. "Usually when I go out there the first couple of innings I see a lot. And then, as the game goes on, I get my focus smaller and smaller."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Rookie shortstops: While Colorado's Trevor Story missed all but three innings of the series with a finger injury, Dodgers phenom Corey Seager extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a pair of hits. He ties Andre Ethier and Steve Sax for the third-longest hitting streak by a Los Angeles Dodgers rookie. Tommy Davis has the record of 20. Seager's longest Minor League hitting streak was 18 games in Double-A.

Seager's single to right

The start of … nothing: The Rockies managed to put the leadoff hitter on base in the fifth, on Nick Hundley's walk against McCarthy, and the sixth, when Charlie Blackmon was hit by reliever Adam Liberatore. But the fifth ended with three straight McCarthy strikeouts. In the sixth, Liberatore picked Blackmon off, struck out LeMahieu and forced a Carlos Gonzalez grounder. 

"We talk about approach all the time, every day -- that's part of our routine in the cage," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We just didn't perform this series. But we've shown that we're going to break out of it. We're a good offensive club."

Filling in for Joc: Since taking over center field for Joc Pederson, who separated his shoulder running into the wall in Milwaukee, Thompson is 5-for-18 with two homers and a double. His homer off Gray was No. 13.

"The long ball, obviously, is great, but we're seeing better at-bats," said Roberts. "Yaz adds insurance with the home run, a couple nights ago, Trayce drives in two runs with a double, and today it's a home run. All throughout the order we're doing things positive."

Thompson's solo smash

QUOTABLE
"The first strikeout, I was like, 'OK, at least if nothing else I didn't end my career with a home run to Justin Upton.'" -- McCarthy, whose previous game was 14 months ago in San Diego More >

"Whatever happens, you can't change it. You put it in the past and show up tomorrow. Continue to grind. Try to get better at-bats." -- the Rockies' Gonzalez on leaving Dodger Stadium, where the club often struggles, and going to face the Giants at AT&T Park, where they've been better -- 13-10 since the start of 2014

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The Dodgers have won nine straight at home, their longest home streak since winning 13 in 2009, and they're 17-3 in their last 20 at home and are 10 games over .500 for the first time this season.

CARGO MUST BE HAPPY TO GO
In six games at Dodger Stadium this year, Gonzalez is 2-for-22 (.091) with 14 strikeouts, one run and one RBI. The struggles at Chavez Ravine go back longer -- 4-for-38 (.105) with 19 strikeouts in his last 10 games. Then again, maybe it's just that the Dodgers make him blue. This year, he is 5-for-35 (.143) with two RBIs, no extra-base hits, 16 strikeouts and three walks against the Dodgers. He doesn't have answers, but he's not blaming anyone, either.

"I wish I could figure it out," Gonzalez said. "Especially me, the last few series here, my offense has been terrible, striking out a lot. I feel like they gave me some pitches to hit and I keep missing, foul balls. You can't miss those opportunities. They're going to be around the strike zone. Whenever they give you something you can't miss.

"I miss a lot. That's how I'm getting myself in trouble."

WHAT'S NEXT
Rockies: Rookie lefty Tyler Anderson (0-2, 2.66 ERA) hopes for better run support -- his team has given him one run total while he was in the game in his first four starts -- when he makes an Independence Day start against the Giants at AT&T Park on Monday at 2:05 p.m. MT.

Dodgers: Julio Urias, coming off his first MLB win, starts for the Dodgers against the Orioles on Monday in the 6:10 p.m. game. He has thrown 74 innings this year (Majors and Minors) after throwing 80 1/3 innings last year, so any start could be his last for a while as the club plans to throttle him back.

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Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.

Thomas Harding has covered the Rockies since 2000, and for MLB.com since 2002. Listen to podcasts and like his Facebook page.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.