Dodgers Face Rockies and Season Debut of Jon Gray

Fresh off a more difficult than should have been series in Atlanta where the Dodgers struggled mightily to win two of three against one of baseball’s three worst teams, the Dodgers and their erratic pitching staff now face three games in the hitters’ paradise that is Colorado’s Coors’ Field. With Scott Kazmir set to open the series, followed by Kenta Maeda and then Alex Wood, the recently decent bullpen will be called upon to do triple duty over the weekend, and it will not be pretty. Led by rookie sensation Trevor Storey (8 home runs, 14 RBI), the second place Rockies lead the major leagues with 26 home runs,

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lead the National League in slugging percentage at .500, and are second in the NL in both team batting average and OPS. Conversely, the Dodgers with a team total of only nine home runs through the first 16 games of the season, rank above only those Braves and the Pirates, and they are tenth in the league in OPS and 11th in slugging. Those numbers should take a giant leap upward with the three Coors’ games, but will they get enough pitching to turn scoring into wins?

The Dodgers face the Rockies top pitching prospect Jon Gray in tonight’s opener. Gray, who began the season on the disabled list with an abdominal strain, will be making his 2016 debut. Last September he showed a lot in a loss to LA, losing despite allowing only two runs while striking out eight over 4-2/3 innings. Gray’s total of 285 minor league innings translates to a bit over one full season and over that time he’s won 20 games and recorded a strikeout per inning with a 3-to-1 strikeout to walk ratio. Gray relies on a 99 MPH fastball and a great slider, and has been described by Steve Foster, his Rockies pitching coach, as having “electric stuff”. Despite his injury and his having pitched only twice this season on a rehab assignment, throwing less than 80 pitches over each game, they say he will have no pitch count on him tonight or going forward this season.

Tonight will be important for Kazmir as well, coming off consecutive horrid outings, both against the Giants. He’ll be facing more raw power tonight in Colorado, though less in the way of the patient, polished hitting that the Giants’ lineup seems to feature from top to bottom. Kazmir has little history against the Rockies, having made only one start against them over his entire career, and that was back in 2007. While the Dodgers dominate Colorado at Dodgers’ Stadium, they are barely .500 (10-9) over the past two seasons at Coors.

On the Dodgers’ Bad News front, it appears that Carl Crawford is close to returning to

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action. He’ll have a rehab assignment this weekend, and unless he suffers an aggravation or a new injury - always a likelihood when Crawford is on the field - he could be back with the Dodgers on Monday. While the concept of having a lefty bat in left field is in theory a good thing, when that means Crawford, the jury is always out. On the better news front, Colorado is without two regulars as cacher Nick Hundley and center fielder Charlie Blackmon are on their DL.

Despite their injuries and usual pitching issues, the Rockies, thanks in large measure to the incredible start of rookie shortstop Storey, are in second place in the awful NL West division, and a two-out-of-three series win against the Dodgers would bring them to within in a half game of the lead. The odds of Kazmir and Wood doing well enough to prevent that are nil.

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