Rox fall late, spoiling strong start by Nicasio

Rox fall late, spoiling strong start by Nicasio

Rox fall late, spoiling strong start by Nicasio
LOS ANGELES -- It boils down to this for the Rockies: All they could manage Saturday night was one big fly ball. That's not enough to win a tight pitching duel on the road.

Tony Gwynn's eight-inning pinch-hit single drove in the Dodgers' winning run to send the Rockies to their seventh loss in eight games, 2-1, at Dodger Stadium in front of 33,735.

The loss came when right-hander Juan Nicasio went seven innings and fanned nine, a high for the Rockies this season. Also Tyler Colvin, continuing his case for increased time in the starting lineup, homered in the seventh for the Rockies' only run. But the homer was one of just four Rockies hits.

"We have to do better offensively when we get pitching like that," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

But the National League West-leading Dodgers won on little accomplishments that counted big in the end.

Gwynn's hit on an 0-2 Matt Belisle pitch was not at all solid. Two softly hit balls -- James Loney's end-of-the-bat squibber for a leadoff single against reliever Josh Outman (0-1) and the bunt that moved Loney to second -- set up the winner. The only run off Nicasio came on a Juan Uribe bloop single in the fifth, after Andre Ethier's double.

Kenley Jansen earned his third save.

"Nicasio had good stuff," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "It was a good game, the kind we play. Good pitching, a timely hit and we closed them down."

A standout defensive play also helped the Dodgers. Loney made a sliding grab of Marco Scutaro's hard ground ball with Wilin Rosario at third with one out in the third and made a perfect throw to the plate.

"I saw I had a chance," said Loney. "I got up really quick and threw it."

Execution wins. That principle was lost on the Rockies.

After Loney's throw, the Dodgers walked Carlos Gonzalez intentionally to load the bases for cleanup hitter Troy Tulowitzki. But Aaron Harang (2-2) worked him into a big-swing fly ball to center.

Poor execution continued in the fifth. Nicasio missed a hit-and-run sign and Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis threw to second to easily retire Rosario, who had walked, and a rally ended before it could begin.

The Rockies dropped to 5-9 on the road and 1-4 on the current eight-game NL West road trip. Other than a six-run, 13-hit performance in Wednesday's victory over the Padres, the Rockies have scored just seven runs. This time there weren't many fly balls, because Harang (2-2) forced 11 ground-ball outs in eight innings, but balls in the air like Tulowitzki's have come too often when a simple line drive or even a grounder through a hole would have been fine.

All the Rockies can be happy about this road trip is their young pitching. Nicasio's work trumped that of two rookies during the San Diego series -- Alex White in a loss on Tuesday and Christian Friedrich in Wednesday's victory.

Nicasio gave up six runs and eight hits in five innings in his previous start, a 7-2 loss to the Braves on Sunday at Coors Field. This time, Nicasio displayed an effective fastball and was able to force the Dodgers to chase his slider and changeup.

"When I have command of my fastball, I'm happy, I'm good," Nicasio said. "I was not worried about my last start. Everybody has a bad day, and that day in Denver I didn't have command of my fastball."

Before the game, Tracy said Colvin had played well enough to earn increased starting opportunities, which likely means more bench time for the struggling Dexter Fowler (2-for-11 on the road trip). Colvin rewarded Tracy by tying the score with two out in the seventh, after Harang had worked Michael Cuddyer into a double-play grounder.

"He [Harang] didn't give hardly anyone a good pitch to hit, but I got to 2-0 on him and tried to get one out of the way, and finally did," Colvin said.

But Harang, who entered with a 5.24 ERA and was the struggling member of a thriving rotation, didn't give the Rockies many chances. Then again, the Rockies aren't hitting much against anyone on the road.

It is leaving the pitching in the difficult position of having to be perfect. Belisle was trying to get Gwynn to chase a high pitch for a strikeout but was not high enough and too much over the plate. With no margin of error, the Rockies paid for it.

"I don't know, it's just frustrating," Belisle said. "This is going to turn around. We felt that a long time ago with this bunch. We're professionals. We know how to mentally do that, how to speak less and get after it on the field. It's going to come."

Thomas Harding is a reporter for Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.