Starting the season with four games at Coors Field was akin to charging into a ‘Wipeout’ course, bouncing off giant rubber balls, dodging swinging foam arms and running up tilting walls.
The Dodgers made it to the other side safely, taking three of the four games after Julio Urias pitched seven scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory Sunday afternoon.
But that didn’t mean the off-kilter characteristics of a series featuring stray cats, inside-the-park homers and outside-the-park singles completely changed. The Dodgers had 47 hits in the series — but only one in the first six innings Sunday, making a meal out of a plant-based substitute (nine walks). They scored three times in the first inning without a hit, putting only two balls in play.
“There’s always relief when you get out of Coors,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts admitted. “I think that our guys do a good job embracing the schedule and coming in here as part of the schedule. But it’s certainly taxing, I think, physically and mentally on the players — myself (chuckled). But it was exciting baseball, all the way around and ultimately to win three of four here was a good start for our season.”
Urias was the calm in the Coors storm. He breezed through the Rockies’ lineup in dominant fashion, allowing just four baserunners (three hits and a walk) in seven scoreless innings. It was the first time as a professional Urias has completed seven innings in a game.
“I felt really really good about everything. The pitches were all working well today,” Urias said through an interpreter. “Everything was going the way that I wanted them to be, especially in a place like this, like Colorado, that obviously gives everybody a really tough time. So I was really happy and pleased with all my pitches today.”
One pitch, in particular, stood out — Urias’ changeup. Rockies hitters saw the change 24 times and made 11 outs on the pitch, including four strikeouts.
“He attacked the zone,” Dodgers catcher Will Smith said. “He was going after them with his heater. His changeup was filthy today. That’s the best I’ve ever seen his changeup.”
Urias retired the first eight hitters he faced before giving up a single to Rockies starter Austin Gomber. He retired the next nine in a row before the Rockies had another baserunner and threw just 79 pitches to get one batter into the eighth inning, missing the strike zone only 20 times.
“The changeup was plus. The fastball was dynamic,” Roberts said. “All the way around, fantastic.”
Gomber, meanwhile, was much more effective as a hitter than he was as a pitcher.
The only major-leaguer acquired from the St. Louis Cardinals in the Rockies’ trade of Nolan Arenado this offseason, Gomber was all over the place in his first inning. He walked four (including Chris Taylor with the bases loaded), threw a run-scoring wild pitch and made a throwing error on what could have been a double play. A double play on a sacrifice fly helped him escape without more damage than the Dodgers’ three runs.
Gomber was gone after three innings and seven walks. In the four-game series, the Rockies’ starting pitchers threw 317 pitches to record a total of 46 outs, no doubt an omen of things to come both for National League pitchers facing the Dodgers’ lineup — and followers of another pitching-challenged Rockies team.
The Dodgers sat on their 3-0 lead until the eighth inning when Smith connected on their first drama-free home run of the season, a fly ball inside the left-field foul pole that covered 438 feet without incident.
That was enough even with the obligatory late-game jitters at Coors Field. Garrett Hampson doubled in two runs off Dodgers reliever Jimmy Nelson in the eighth before Corey Knebel closed it out in the ninth (with Kenley Jansen unavailable). It was Knebel’s first save since 2018, before he underwent Tommy John surgery.
“There’s a few guys I see taking down saves,” Roberts said when asked about Knebel’s status as a closer alternative. “I think when Kenley is down, to feel you can trust some other guys in the ‘pen to finish a game, I think that’s really important. Yeah, he’s in the mix.”