Joc Pederson has a flair for the dramatic.
Pederson homered off Max Scherzer in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, and three times in the World Series last season. So naturally as the Dodgers entered into their biggest series of the season with the first place Colorado Rockies, it was his time to shine.
Pederson opened the game with his sixth leadoff homer of the season, and hit a back-breaking two-run homer in the bottom of the fourth as the Dodgers moved back into first place in the NL West with an 8-2 victory over the Rockies on Monday night.
"You look at last year and again in the NLCS against Scherzer he hit a big homer" said Dodgers' manager Dave Roberts of Pederson. "Joc has come up the last few years with a lot of big hits for us."
Max Muncy made sure Pederson didn't have to shoulder all the load as he hit his 33rd homer of the season, a three-run shot in the bottom of the third inning.
Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (5-3) pitched seven scoreless innings, throwing 93 pitches to match a season high. He struck out five and didn't walk a batter as he lowered his ERA to 2.21 over seven starts since returning from a strained left groin.
"To start the year he was throwing the ball really well," said Roberts of Ryu. "He just has that ability to control the heartbeat and the pulse and make good pitches. He can get lefties and righties out and throw strikes when he needs to. There's a lot of trust there, and he's earned it."
The Rockies entered this showdown series with a half-game lead on Los Angeles, but the teams switched places as the Dodgers unleashed the high-powered offense that helped them win three of four last weekend in St. Louis.
It was a rough night all-around for the Rockies, who not only dropped out of first place in the division but fell a half-game behind the Cardinals for the second NL wild card. They also lost slugger Trevor Story in the fourth inning with an undisclosed injury. The All-Star shortstop was injured on a swing against Ryu.
"It's a competitive division and its not going to let up at all," said Muncy of the NL West. "There's not one series we play that's going to be easy and it makes for some fun baseball."
Story was checked by manager Bud Black and a trainer before leaving the game. Already this season, Story has become the first shortstop in major league history with at least 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 25 steals.
Pederson gave a sign of what was ahead when he led off the game for the Dodgers with a home run to the opposite field in left. It was his sixth leadoff homer this season and the ninth of his career. Muncy also scored in the first inning on a wild pitch by Jon Gray (11-8).
"It's always nice to use the whole field," said Pederson of his opposite field leadoff homer. "It's encouraging when I'm using the whole field."
The Dodgers chased Gray in the third as the first five hitters reached base. Manny Machado had an RBI single in the inning that was followed by Muncy's three-run drive, his 33rd homer of the season. Yasiel Puig's single ended Gray's night.
"We've seen him every series the last three times against Colorado, and I feel like that played into a huge factor with us," said Muncy of Gray. "The offense is going really well right now and hopefully it will be the same story tomorrow."
Gray went two-plus innings, giving up six runs, seven hits and two walks. He hasn't pitched more than four innings in three consecutive starts.
"We've seen Gray at times very good, but today he didn't have command of his fastball," said Roberts. "We waited him out, got some pitches out over and took advantage of it."
Pederson hit his second homer of the night in the fourth. His two-run shot into the seats in right field off reliever Harrison Musgrave was his 23rd of the season, and moved him three away from matching his career best set in his rookie year of 2015.
"You always want to capitalize on your opportunities and make the best of them," said Pederson of his rare home run off a left-handed pitcher in Musgrave. "I prepare and hit off a lefty in the cage almost every day. I try and make the best of it when I get the chance, and I still need to continue to work on it, but tonight was an encouraging part of the process."
The Rockies broke through for their first run in the eighth against Dodgers left-hander Alex Wood on an RBI single from DJ LeMahieu. Wood, who was charged with two runs in the inning, was removed from the rotation last week.
Rockies: RHP Seunghwan Oh (tight left hamstring) was available out of the bullpen after not pitching since Sept. 9.
Dodgers: 3B Justin Turner was in the starting lineup, with manager Dave Roberts saying "he remains sore in the wrist" after Turner was hit by a pitch Saturday at St. Louis. . RHP John Axford (broken right leg) was activated from the disabled list along with LHP Tony Cingrani (left shoulder strain). . RHP Daniel Hudson (right forearm tightness) was transferred to the 60-day DL.
The Rockies will send LHP Kyle Freeland (15-7, 2.96 ERA) to the mound Tuesday. He is 6-0 with a 2.96 ERA over his last eight starts. The Dodgers will have LHP Clayton Kershaw (8-5, 2.51) on the mound. The longtime ace is 5-1 with a 2.26 ERA in 10 second-half starts.