LOS ANGELES -- With two weeks left in the regular season, the first-place Rockies arrived at Dodger Stadium Monday looking to pounce on the team that has won the National League West for the last five seasons.But all of the pouncing belonged to the Dodgers, as Colorado dropped the first
LOS ANGELES -- With two weeks left in the regular season, the first-place Rockies arrived at Dodger Stadium Monday looking to pounce on the team that has won the National League West for the last five seasons.
But all of the pouncing belonged to the Dodgers, as Colorado dropped the first of a three-game series, 8-2, and slipped to a half-game back of Los Angeles for first place in the division.
The Rockies didn't just lose the game. They also may have lost shortstop and potential MVP Award candidate Trevor Story for a period of time. Story departed in the fourth inning with elbow soreness after swinging and missing at a pitch from Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu. The initial injury occurred in the first inning on a throw Story made after a diving play to rob Justin Turner.
"I felt something on the throw when I dove for the ball," Story said. "My elbow was a little tight, but I just tried to play through it. When I swung through that pitch, it kind of extended my arm and I felt it a little more."
Manager Bud Black said the move was precautionary, and there would be more updates after some tests Tuesday.
"Any time one of your key figures has to leave a game, it's concerning," Black said. "But we're remaining optimistic just because of the initial feel from the medical side."
Another concern was starter Jon Gray, who battled location and command issues from the get-go. A primary key was for Gray to extend late into the ballgame, but for the third start in a row, he couldn't notch more than four innings of work. This time, he lasted just two-plus innings after being tagged for six runs on seven hits and found himself in a hole from the first batter he faced.
Colorado is familiar with first-inning struggles from its starting pitchers -- the Rockies lead the Majors with the highest first-inning ERA at 7.56 -- and that pattern continued for Gray, who allowed a home run to Joc Pederson on his fourth pitch of the game. Los Angeles would tack one one more run, courtesy of a wild pitch that scored Player Page for Max Muncy.
"The last three starts for Jon have been not Jon-like," Black said.
"[He] couldn't really seem to get anything going," he added. "Right from the first at-bat, he got behind Pederson."
Gray bounced back in the second and appeared to have regained control. However, the wheels fell off fast in the third, when Gray surrendered a leadoff double to Pederson. Turner singled, and after a mound visit, Manny Machado tagged Gray for a RBI single to bring the lead to 3-0. It set the table for Muncy, who responded with a 400-foot, three-run home run -- his 33rd of the year.
After Yasiel Puig tallied the Dodgers' fifth straight hit, Gray was removed from the game without recording an out. He was visibly frustrated after the game.
"I wouldn't say I've thrown anything very good the last couple of outings," Gray said. "I was fighting everything from the get-go. I just got so mechanical out there, something I promised myself I wouldn't do. That's where it took me. I was really not happy with that.
"Most of it's mechanical adjustments, but the thing for me is not thinking about the mechanical stuff when I'm competing," he added. "That can get in the way. It got in the way a lot tonight, and I've had it happen to me too many times already. I'm sick of it right now."
'PEN A POSITIVE SIGN
The Rockies had to rely on their relievers after Gray's quick departure. Harrison Musgrave was the first arm out of the 'pen, and he was able to escape further damage to end the third inning. However, he was tagged by Pederson in the fourth on his second home run of the game. This time it was a two-run blast, and it put the Dodgers up, 8-0.
That was Musgrave's only mistake, though, and DJ Johnson, Bryan Shaw and Sam Howard combined to throw four shutout innings of two-hit ball.
After Ryu shut out the Rockies for seven innings, the Rockies were able to escape their third shutout in their last four games in the eighth inning. DJ LeMahieu singled in Andrew Butera, and Nolan Arenado followed with a bloop hit to drive in Garrett Hampson. Any chance of a Rockies rally was thwarted though, as LeMahieu was thrown out at third base trying to extend from first to third to end the inning.
"Typical Ryu," Butera said. "Good command, sneaky fastball and he kept us off-balance going back and forth with that curveball."
The Rockies have scored just five runs in their last four games.
HE SAID IT
"We've seen Gray at times very good. Today, he just didn't have command of his fastball and his slider just didn't have that sharp depth on the break. We waited him out, got some pitches out over, and took advantage of it." -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, on Gray
In just his second season in the big leagues, Kyle Freeland has placed himself into Cy Young Award consideration. Freeland will take on fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw Tuesday in the second game of the series at Dodger Stadium, as both clubs continue to battle for first place. Freeland will hope his start goes as well as the last time he took on the Dodgers, when he held Los Angeles to one run and four hits while striking out eight over six innings at Coors Field on Sept. 8. The Rockies haven't lost a game in which Freeland has started since Aug. 1. First pitch is scheduled for 8:10 p.m. MT.
Katie Woo is a reporter for MLB.com based in San Diego. Follow her on Twitter @katiejwoo.