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Dodgers face the Rockies for the first time in 2020

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Weekend series preview

Colorado Rockies v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images

Only five National League teams own a winning record, and two of them will face off this weekend in Los Angeles. The Dodgers host the Rockies for the first time in 2020, beginning Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

Colorado is 13-12, third place in the NL West, but come to town having just lost four straight to the Astros in two cities. The Rockies have lost nine of their last 11 games after an 11-3 start.

Despite those struggles, these Rockies look a lot like the 2017-18 wild card teams, built on strong, young pitching, even though Colorado’s 19.5-percent strikeout rate is the second-lowest in MLB. On offense, Charlie Blackmon was so hot that his current .424/.463/.606 line feels like a slump. Nine of old friend Matt Kemp’s 13 starts have come against left-handers this season, but the Dodgers are throwing three right-handers out there this weekend.

Here’s a look at the pitching matchups for the three-game series.

Friday, 6:40 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA)

Walker Buehler has been inconsistent in his four starts, with a 5.21 ERA and 6.38 FIP, and he’s only recorded two outs in the sixth inning to date. Friday also marks seven weeks from the start of summer camp, roughly the equivalent of the first series of the regular season after a normal spring training for pitchers.

“We’ve been seeing progress over the last couple starts. First we started seeing the velocity tick up a couple starts ago. Last time we saw the command tick up,” pitching coach Mark Prior said Thursday. “The slider and the curveball haven’t been there for him yet, and that’s kind of handcuffed him in some situations.”

Series pitching matchup

Stat Dodgers Rockies
Stat Dodgers Rockies
ERA 2.72 (2nd) 4.35 (15th)
ERA+ 163 (2nd) 123 (5th)
FIP 3.90 (3rd) 3.95 (5th)
FIP- 88 (5th) 83 (3rd)
K rate 23.7% (14th) 19.5% (29th)
BB rate 7.7% (3rd) 6.3% (1st)
HR rate 3.1% (9th) 2.7% (2nd)
fWAR 3.6 (4th) 4.2 (2nd)
6-IP starts 8 (t-9th) 15 (3rd)
Source: FanGraphs & Baseball-Reference

Jon Gray has a 5.74 ERA in his five starts but more alarmingly only 16 strikeouts in 26⅔ innings. But he’s coming off a seven-strikeout performance over seven innings on Sunday in Denver, the Rockies’ last win.

Saturday, 6:10 p.m. (SportsNet LA)

Dustin May has pitched admirably well after getting pressed into duty on Opening Day. He lasted six innings twice, had two strikeouts of Manny Machado that went viral, and has yet to allow more than two runs in any start. May arguably has the best stuff on the staff, which is why it’s perplexing that among the 19 Dodgers who have thrown a pitch in 2020, that May’s 18.8-percent strikeout rate ranks 17th.

In a pandemic-shortened season in which the average start so far has been only 4.71 innings, Kyle Freeland stands out, completing at least six innings in each of his five starts, allowing nine total runs. Three of those NL-high five quality starts came at Coors Field. He gives the Dodgers another test to sort out their kinks against left-handed pitchers.

Sunday, 1:10 p.m. (SportsNet LA)

Ross Stripling has allowed 20 runs in 18⅔ innings in his last four starts, and his eight home runs allowed this season are tied for second-most in the majors. Among the 91 major league pitchers with at least 20 innings this season, Stripling ranks 75th in ERA (5.61) and 85th in FIP (6.32). Buehler, with his 6.38 FIP, has only pitched 19 innings.

Antonio Senzatela is coming off eight scoreless innings against Houston and has a 2.90 ERA. Only 21 of 136 pitchers with three starts this season (15.4 percent) are averaging at least six innings, and the Rockies have three of them: Freeland (6.33), Senzatela (6.20), and German Marquez (6.17).

All three games at Dodger Stadium will also be broadcast on MLB Network, but only available for those outside of both television markets.