Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 Rockies en route to his first victory of the season and Adrian Gonzalez drove in two runs as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 7-3 on Friday night.
After picking up a no-decision in the Dodgers Opening Day victory over the Padres, Kershaw (1-1) was shelled in his second outing in Arizona 6-0. Kershaw returned to form on Friday, albeit with a few hiccups.
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner allowed three runs (one earned) on six hits over six innings. Despite the victory, Kershaw surrendered two homers to Troy Tulowitski and Charlie Blackmon bringing his season total to three. By comparison, Kershaw only allowed nine home runs all of last season.
“We had a good game plan, but I just didn’t execute all the way through on my part,” said Kershaw of his performance. “There’s definitely room for improvement, but it feels good to get a win.”
Kershaw wasn’t as dominant against Colorado as he was last June when he no-hit the Rockies in a memorable 15 strikeout, no walk performance; but he did improve his record to 12-2 with a 3.11 ERA against the division rival.
“It’s never a good thing seeing Kershaw,” said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. “Against a guy like this who’s at the top of the game, it’s even more important to take what’s presented to you and execute the game when the scoreboard tells you to.”
Colorado got runs in the fourth when Tulowitzki lined a ball down the left field line to the shallowest part of the park. Blackmon added two more in the fifth on a blast to right field, but that was all the runs the Rockies could manage as they fell for the first time on the road this season.
Gonzalez continued his hot hitting as he feasted off former Philadelphia Phillies starter, Kyle Kendrick. Gonzalez went 3 for 4 with two doubles, three runs scored and two RBIs as he set the Dodgers franchise record for most hits (22) through the teams’ first ten games.
“Adrian [Gonzalez] plays cat and mouse all the time,” said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly of his first baseman’s at-bats. “He has a really good understanding of what pitchers are trying to do to him – what they can do, what they can’t do, and he takes advantage of that.”
Batting behind Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick (no relation to Kyle), hit his first long ball of the season in the first inning. Kendrick’s two-run blast put the Dodgers up 3-0 early and Los Angeles would never look back.
“It’s pretty funny when you face somebody with the same last name,” said the Dodgers cleanup hitter. “I faced him before when he was with the Phillies during interleague play with the Angels. We actually swapped jerseys at that time, and we never even planned it. It just happened that way.”
Kendrick (1-2) allowed six runs on seven hits through 4 2/3 innings for Colorado.
“I made some mistakes that got hit,” said Kendrick of his outing. “They swung the bats pretty well, but my last inning got away.”
Gonzalez and Kendrick hit back-to-back RBI doubles in that inning to extend LA’s lead to 6-3.
Adam Liberatore pitched the ninth and struck out Michael McKenry to end the game in his major league debut. Liberatore was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City before the game. The 27-year-old left-hander had a perfect 0.00 ERA in spring training and was acquired from Tampa Bay with Joel Peralta on November 20th, 2014.
“It’s always nice to end the game on a punch out,” smiled Liberatore. “It was pretty cool to come in and be able to finish the game in my first appearance. When I got two strikes on that last guy [McKenry] the crowd made some noise and I thought ‘hopefully I can punch him out and make them scream even louder.’”
With the victory, the Dodgers won their fifth consecutive game and are now tied with the Rockies atop the NL West with a record of 7-3. The winner of Saturday’s game will sit alone in first place.
Yasiel Puig sat out his third game in a row with tightness in his left hamstring. The cast of the cult classic film, "Super Troopers" threw out the first pitch of the game and Dodgers fans were greeted with fireworks after the game courtesy of Denny’s.