In the absence of Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers starting pitchers seem to be trying to top each other while helping to fill in the noticeable gap. Scott Kazmir was the latest, shutting down the Rockies for six innings on Friday night in the Dodgers' second straight win over Colorado, 6-1 on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
Kazmir struck out 10 and walked none in six scoreless innings, allowing only three hits and hitting a batter. That came one night after Bud Norris also pitched six scoreless innings, with eight strikeouts and a walk in his Dodgers debut.
Kazmir's biggest weakness in 2016 has been the first inning, with 16 runs in 16 starts in the opening frame coming into Friday night. So when he hit Charlie Blackmon with a 2-2 pitch to open the game, it looked like the Dodgers might start out with a deficit.
But two strikeouts and a ground out got Kazmir out of the first inning with ease, and started a streak of nine straight batters retired.
Instead, the Dodgers started out hot, collecting four straight singles in the first inning for two runs. Corey Seager started the string to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, with the run-scoring hits delivered by Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig.
A single by DJ LeMahieu broke up Kazmir's no-hitter in the fourth inning, and that was just one of three hits Kazmir would allow. The other two were doubles, each with one out in the fifth and sixth innings. But after each one, Kazmir struck out the next two batters to end each threat.
The sixth inning ended with strikeouts of Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez. Arenado struck out three times on Saturday, the second straight nigh he did so, but homered in the ninth inning for the Rockies' only run.
It was the second time this season Kazmir has reached double digits in strikeouts in a game.
Scott Kazmir hit 95 four times tonight. He'd done it three times all season before tonight.— Mike Petriello (@mike_petriello) July 3, 2016
Doubles by Justin Turner and Trayce Thompson keyed another two-run rally in the third inning, with Thompson's two-out drive scoring both Turner and Gonzalez to widen the Dodgers lead to 4-0.
Gonzalez heating up
Two more runs were plated in the seventh, thanks to a double by Howie Kendrick, a walk by Seager and Turner's third hit of the night. Gonzalez brought home the first run with a scoring fly ball to center field, then a wild pitch brought home another.
Saturday was the third straight game with an RBI for Gonzalez, and the second straight night he had two run-scoring plays. In his last six plate appearances with runners in scoring position, Gonzalez is 4-for-4 with a double, a walk and a sacrifice fly.
Since taking himself out of the lineup for a mental reset in the final two games in Pittsburgh (though he would end up playing in both games, anyway), Gonzalez is 8-for-15 (.533) with two doubles, three walks and six RBI in five games.
No free passes
Before Kazmir on Saturday, the last 11 Dodgers starts with 10 strikeouts and no walks were all by Kershaw. The last time someone other than Kershaw did the deed was on April 13, 2015, by Brandon McCarthy, who will start Sunday's series finale.
Home runs: Nolan Arenado (22)
WP - Scott Kazmir (7-3): 6 IP, 3 hits, 10 strikeouts
LP - Chad Bettis (6-6): 6 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts