Originally posted on Fox Sports West  |  Last updated 8/28/12
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 Josh 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 5.2 inning, 7-hit, three earned run stat line, Beckett (0-1) did a mostly effective job keeping Rockies hitters off balance under a steady wind that drove the ball to right field and showed a deft experience that belied the mile an hour or two that has fallen off his fastball. With the effort he provided Monday, Los Angeles should have some guarded optimism over the extent to which 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. Against a staff with the highest ERA in the Major Leagues and one that after nine innings of shutout ball improved to within four-tenths of a run of the 29th-ranked Cleveland pitching staff, Los Angeles was 1-8 with runners on base with 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 while 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 in which 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 homerun to the first batter he faced, Rockies centerfielder Tyler Colvin. With the wind howling out to rightfield, 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. Showing a feel for pitching that made a 5-11 record and 5.23 ERA in Boston seem somewhat extreme, Beckett did a good job of 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 innings and was the victim of a two-out Colorado rally in the fourth. Other than Colvin's homerun 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, it is imperative that the Dodgers continue to at least get similar performances from Beckett like his outing Monday as number five starter Joe Blanton attempts to regain his form. Blanton is winless in four Los Angeles starts with a 7.71 ERA, allowing an increasing number of hits against in each of his last three outings. Ted Lilly isn't showing any encouraging signs at all 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 really 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."
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