Dodgers stymied by Rockies in rubber game

Dodgers stymied by Rockies in rubber game

Dodgers stymied by Rockies in rubber game
DENVER -- Two of the game's promising young pitchers staged a Mile High duel at Coors Field on Sunday. There were a total of three hits and one run through the first five innings, but the Rockies surged ahead with two runs in the sixth en route to handing the Dodgers a 3-2 loss in the rubber match of a three-game set.

Dodgers starter Nathan Eovaldi was strong for five innings, though he faltered in the sixth, giving up a walk and three hits before being pulled after throwing 102 pitches, 63 of which were strikes.

"He's at a stage for me -- he's like [2011 National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton] Kershaw three years ago," manager Don Mattingly said. "You're going to see some really good games. You're going to see some games where his pitch count gets up. He's going to keep getting better and better the longer we keep him here."

One of the positives from a tight game and a tough loss was Eovaldi's ability to challenge a powerful lineup without his best stuff. After giving up two runs on four hits and a walk over seven innings in a loss to the Brewers in his first start, Eovaldi struggled to command his offspeed pitches against the Rockies.

"Nate wasn't as sharp as he was against Milwaukee," Mattingly said. "He really didn't get many secondary pitches over, so he had to keep challenging them with the fastball. He hung in there."

The Rockies' first run was unearned, as leadoff man Dexter Fowler singled through the infield to left, stole second, and advanced on a passed ball. He was driven home on a groundout to third by Marco Scutaro.

Eovaldi allowed only one more hit -- an infield single that catcher Wilin Rosario beat out on a close play in the fifth -- until breaking down a bit in his final inning of work. He walked Fowler to lead off the sixth and gave up an infield single to Carlos Gonzalez before yielding a run-scoring single and double to Todd Helton and Jordan Pacheco, respectively.

"It made it a lot more difficult," Eovaldi said about pitching without command of his secondary pitches. "You're trying to throw them for strikes, and then you're falling behind guys. You have to spot up your fastball that much more. It makes it difficult."

The Dodgers were stymied by Rockies starter Alex White for six scoreless innings before finally knocking him out in the seventh. White held the Dodgers hitless through 3 2/3 before Jerry Hairston broke through with a two-out single to left.

"His stuff's just good," Mattingly said of White. "He's kind of a spray-painter for me. He's not a guy that's sitting there hitting spots. They pretty much set up down the middle with him and let the thing eat. His ball moves pretty good. He's a big ground ball guy." The only other hit White allowed was a two-run homer from A.J. Ellis, who drilled a 1-0 fastball over the left-field wall in the seventh, plating Jim Loney, who had walked.

"Early in the count, he was using the sinker to set up his other stuff," Ellis said. "With a runner on first and a double-play situation, I wanted to find a sinker to hit. It was up to me to get it up in the air. Fortunately I got one a little higher than he would have liked to have thrown it."

White walked Adam Kennedy, his fifth free pass of the day, before the Rockies went to the bullpen. Dee Gordon ran out an infield single off reliever Rex Brothers with the Rockies second baseman DJ LeMahieu breaking to the bag on the pitch, but the Rockies' bullpen retired the final seven batters in succession.

"A.J.'s homer was big, because then it's every swing of the bat," Mattingly said. "We're down 3-0, he hits the two-run homer, so at that point everybody that walks up there gives you a chance to tie the game, so you're hopeful the whole time."

LeMahieu bounced back and stole a hit from pinch-hitter Alex Castellanos in the next at-bat by diving into the hole and making the play to first to end the inning. With runners on first and second, the ball would have been a game-changer if not for LeMahieu's highlight-reel play.

"Hit," Castellanos said regarding what he thought off the bat. "Double possibly. He just snagged it. When I saw him snag it, I started hustling hard to try and beat it out. He made a great play on it. Not much you can do about that."

If LeMahieu hadn't gotten a glove on it, Kennedy likely would have scored from second to tie the game, and the speedy Dee Gordon had a chance to score the go-ahead run from first.

"What can you say," said Rockies reliever Matt Belisle, who came in to face Castellanos. "He squared up a slider pretty good, and all I see is No. 9 on a hard backhand, a great job. A huge play, huge situation."

Ellis and Tony Gwynn Jr. took closer Rafael Betancourt to the warning track in the ninth, but Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer had them measured and made the catches to secure the win and the series.

"You never know here," Mattingly said of Ellis' warning-track fly. "But usually the ball gets small on you quick. You can kind of tell if they're traveling out. I thought [Gwynn's] had a shot.

The Dodgers left Colorado with their losing streak behind them and a solid hold on the best record in baseball, but at 1-6 over their last seven games, they have to turn things around as they head to Philadelphia for a four-game set.

"I don't think there's a person here pushing a panic button," Ellis said. "Someone said today is officially the end of the first third of the season. There's two-thirds to go. I think our first third was pretty darn good."

Owen Perkins is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.