For Rox, playing the West is best. But can they do it vs. the rest?

Colorado roughs up Clayton Kershaw, moves to 9-3 in last 12 games vs. division foes

June 29th, 2022

DENVER -- The Rockies are competing the best against opponents they know the most.

Tuesday night’s 7-4 victory over the Dodgers at Coors Field, powered by four  hits and solo homers from Randal Grichuk and , secured the Rockies' second series victory in as many sets against the club many expect to win the National League West.

Speaking of the West, of the Rockies’ last four series against division opponents, they’ve won three and split one -- a cumulative 9-3 against the Giants, Padres and Dodgers. And it’s not just at Coors Field. They took two of three in San Francisco against the Giants and split four at Petco Park against the Padres en route to building a five-game division win streak against the Padres and Dodgers.

Yes, the Rockies are trying to climb out of a nine below .500 hole, as home runs and clutch hits seem to inexplicably disappear just as quickly as they materialized against the Dodgers. But they’re 13-10 in the division, and started a 17-game stretch against their West foes with wins in the first two games of this latest three-game matchup.

The wins the last two games over Tyler Anderson and Clayton Kershaw, who gave up six runs on nine hits and walked four in four innings on Tuesday, had significant statistical meaning, as well.

“The group of guys we have in this clubhouse have gotten to know the NL West pretty well, and they’ve done a good job of recognizing what they need to do in their game plan, whether it’s pitching or hitting,” said lefty Kyle Freeland, who held the Dodgers to three runs in six innings, striking out five against six hits and three walks.

Blackmon, who had three singles and a double, an RBI and two runs scored, best exemplified how familiarity leads to production.

The Rockies have proven a persistent foil for Kershaw over the years, despite his likely future Hall of Fame trajectory, with Blackmon in particular being anything but an easy out in their left-on-left meetings. By singling three times against Kershaw on Tuesday, Blackmon improved to 21-for-69 (.304) against the veteran southpaw.

“He’s so good, he’s a really good competitor,” Blackmon said. “There’s been some back and forth between him and I. I don’t give it much more than that, outside of I enjoy competing against him because he’s always so good. We’ve been around for a long time together. It’s cool to have that much history against another player.”

Blackmon also tied Carlos González for third on the Rockies’ career doubles list by leading off the sixth with his 277th -- while facing another familiar pitcher, Yency Almonte, formerly with the Rockies.

This Rockies club's ability to hit paydirt against the Dodgers and the West in general -- while having its record dragged down by the NL East (8-19) and the American League (6-8) -- may be difficult to explain.

Maybe it’s coincidence. Maybe it’s familiarity. But the power and pitching have been present, and the Rockies have moved past the errors and lack of clutch hitting when they play in the division -- even against the Dodgers.

“I’m not sure,” manager Bud Black said before the game when asked about their division dominance. “I’d like to think we can do this well against everybody and we can talk about this at the end of the season. There’s really not a lot of secrets within the division. It comes down to who plays the best, pitches the best and gets some key hits.”

Whatever happens the rest of the way, the Rockies can at least ride their NL West momentum for a bit -- a run not even Los Angeles or a pitcher with a resume as impressive as Kershaw's can block.

“I wouldn’t say we step it up, but we know who we’re playing,” said Brendan Rodgers, who noted that the difficulties in finding clutch hits seem to arise in games outside the division. “We always play good, hard games against these guys.

“Obviously, it’s a good team. We had a good scouting report, a good meeting on Kershaw today. We stuck to it very well, took our walks and made him work.”