Slumping offense overshadows Beckett's debut
Josh Beckett received no run support as Los Angeles' struggles against Colorado continued at Coors Field.
A two-week absence from facing the Colorado Rockies pitching staff did nothing to re-stoke the Dodgers' offensive fire, as a punchless Los Angeles squad fell meekly at Coors Field on Monday, 10-0.
In a game that drew attention for Beckett's first start in a Dodger uniform following Saturday's blockbuster nine-piece trade, the former Marlins and Red Sox World Series winner did everything he could to put his team in a position to win. Not entirely reflected in his stat line (5 2/3 innings, seven hits, three earned runs), Beckett (0-1) did a mostly effective job keeping Rockies hitters off balance under a steady wind that drove the ball to right field. With the effort he provided Monday, Los Angeles should have some guarded optimism about what he can add to a pitching staff currently without the services of starters Chad Billingsley and Ted Lilly.
Starting pitching was the least of the Dodgers' concerns in the first Rockies' home shutout of 2012.
The Rockies' staff has the highest ERA in the majors and after nine innings of shutout ball improved to within four-tenths of a run of the 29th-ranked Cleveland pitching staff. But the Dodgers were 1-8 with runners on base, including three strikeouts and Matt Kemp's inning-ending double play in the eighth.
Since the All-Star Break, the Rockies, who began their Aug. 6-8 series at Dodger Stadium 30 games under .500, have gone 3-1 against the Dodgers with two shutouts, allowing 1.75 runs per game. In their other 38 post-break games, they've allowed 5.6 runs per game.
Once again, Jim Tracy's unique pitching cadence — Colorado starters throw roughly 75 pitches and are followed by long relievers capable of throwing three-inning stints — disrupted a Los Angeles lineup that has dropped back-to-back games against fifth-place National League teams.
This time it was Jeff Francis (5-4) and Josh Roenicke who shut the door against Los Angeles after Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Adam Ottavino and Roenicke had breakthrough performances in the Rockies' series victory at Dodger Stadium earlier this month.
Francis, whose ERA lowered to 5.44 during his fifth win of the season, retired Andre Ethier twice on a pair of tappers back to the box, allowed only three hits and struck out six Dodgers while breezing through L.A.'s re-tooled lineup.
The pitching matchup was a reprise of Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, a game won 13-1 by Beckett and the Red Sox.
"There's going to be some extra buzz because he's pitching," Francis said to reporters before the game. "No doubt."
As for L.A.'s continually evolving pitching staff, Beckett settled down after allowing a massive home run to the first batter he faced, Rockies center fielder Tyler Colvin.
With the wind howling out to right field, Beckett was able to keep the ball lower in the zone after that point and was successful using cutters and off-speed pitches in addition to his four-seam fastball.
Beckett's feel for pitching he displayed on Monday is not reflected in his 5-11 record and 5.23 ERA in Boston. He did a good job setting up pinch-hitter Dexter Fowler to start the bottom of the fifth before running a cut fastball by him that started inside and darted out over the inner half of the plate for a called strike three. Two batters later, it was his breaking ball that struck catcher Wilin Rosario out in a three-pitch at-bat.
He struck out six in his 5 2/3 innings and was the victim of a two-out Colorado rally in the fourth. Other than Colvin's home run and a triple by Chris Nelson, the Rockies were not consistently making great contact.
"I was the second-best pitcher out there," Beckett said to reporters after the game, as reported by the LA Times.
With a revitalized Chad Billingsley succumbing to elbow pain and needing a second DL stint last weekend, the Dodgers need similar performances from Beckett while number-five starter Joe Blanton tries to regain his form. Blanton is winless in four Los Angeles starts with a 7.71 ERA, allowing an increasing number of hits in each of his last three outings.
Ted Lilly isn't showing encouraging signs in his attempt to rehabilitate a sore left shoulder, and according to Mattingly last week would not likely be a candidate for a starting role, should he return within the season's final month. At this point, that's beginning to feel like a longshot.
In the larger scope, there's not much to find fault with in a Dodger pitching staff that under Mattingly and pitching coach Rick Honeycutt has chiseled out a 3.43 ERA, the second best in the National League.
It's the offense that needs to improve, and wringing more production out of a reinforced lineup will be the biggest need heading into the season's final 33 games. It continues on Tuesday at Coors Field against Tyler Chatwood (3-3, 4.98), another pitcher you would expect the Dodgers' lineup to be able to find a rhythm against at Coors Field.
Of course, there's what Beckett said in his Dodger Stadium introduction after Saturday night's win.
"Yeah, but we don't play baseball on paper."