Nicasio impressive to win duel with Dodgers
Arenado's RBI double against Greinke provides only scoring
LOS ANGELES -- Juan Nicasio's effective start and Adam Ottavino's relief escape made Saturday night's exercise in high-stakes baseball a happy one for the Rockies, who took a 1-0 victory at Dodger Stadium in the next-to-last game of 2013.
Nicasio's inconsistent velocity -- the result of pain and weakness in his legs stemming from last year's season-ending left knee surgery -- was present, with his four-seam fastball sitting consistently at 94-95 mph as he struck out seven and held the Dodgers to three hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Nicasio (9-9) was removed with one out and two on in the sixth because he had rung up 103 pitches. Freed from the burden of rehab that marked his last offseason, Nicasio is facing a normal offseason to prepare to take the next step in 2014.
"I was feeling good," Nicasio said. "After five innings, in the sixth, I felt a little tired in my knee. I'm happy because I finished my season strong, and I'm happy I did it against the Dodgers."
If healthy and consistent, Nicasio could give the Rockies a fourth solid pitcher in next season's rotation. Jhoulys Chacin, Jorge De La Rosa and Tyler Chatwood each finished with ERAs below 3.50. Nicasio missed much of 2011 after suffering a broken neck when hit with a line drive, and he suffered the knee injury in early June.
"That's the thing about Juan; he can step up and have a performance like that," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We're just trying to find consistency after being out for much of the time over the last two years. We've seen that before this year. We've actually seen it here [at Dodger Stadium], when he matched up against [Clayton] Kershaw.
"That's why you stick with some guys and have patience with them."
The Rockies, who won by a 1-0 score for the 17th time in their 21 seasons, evened the season series with the Dodgers, 9-9, and have won five of nine at Dodger Stadium heading into Sunday's season finale. The success against the National League West champs and the decent performance in the division (37-38) are bright spots for the Rockies, who will nonetheless finish last in the NL West for a second straight year.
"That's one of the things we talked about in Spring Training, playing well within the division," Weiss said. "We did that. There are some other things we didn't accomplish. We're going to have to do that to win the division. That's a good sign."
The Rockies, on doubles by Troy Tulowitzki and Nolan Arenado in the fourth against Zack Greinke (15-4), gave Nicasio a 1-0 lead.
"We played well but their pitcher pitched really well," Greinke said. "He had a really good fastball and located it. We had some opportunities but they got out of it."
After an error by Rockies second baseman Jonathan Herrera and a single by the Dodgers' Hanley Ramirez, reliever Josh Outman -- who has had mixed results in a late-season test as a lefty specialist -- replaced Nicasio and promptly walked Adrian Gonzalez.
But Ottavino, who has shown improvement as a late-innings reliever, induced a foul popup from Juan Uribe and a flyout to right field from Scott Van Slyke. Matt Belisle, who struggled early in September before finding his form, threw a perfect seventh with two strikeouts. The relievers pitched 3 2/3 hitless innings.
In another managerial move designed for the day when such moves are crucial to postseason hopes, Weiss removed Chad Bettis after a two-out walk to Ramirez in the eighth. Rex Brothers (18 saves) retired Gonzalez to end the inning, and threw a scoreless ninth for a four-out save. It was the second save of more than three outs for Brothers, who took the closing job because of various injuries to veteran Rafael Betancourt.
"It's just good to play a competitive game like that and end up winning a real tough game against a real good team," Weiss said. "I'm proud of the way our guys have played down the stretch here."