LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling knows he will have to weather the early going Sunday if he wants to get back to his winning ways.
Stripling will face a Colorado Rockies team that is known for fast starts. The Rockies lead all of baseball with 70 runs scored in the opening inning. They also lead the majors with 24 first-inning home runs.
The Rockies are focused on trying to counter the Dodgers’ offensive muscle. Manager Bud Black is preaching to his pitchers to be aggressive.
“We knew coming in (the Dodgers) had power http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-aut ... ord-jersey ,” Black said. “We know that you have to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. We have been attacking them and going after them to get into more favorable counts. That’s the message we send to all teams and we have to do it again (Sunday).”
Keeping opponents in check early is one of the many things Stripling has excelled at during his breakout season. The Texas native has allowed one first-inning run in his 11 previous starts, and two extra-base hits.
Rockies starter Chad Bettis also must prepare for a potential volatile first inning. Not only do the Rockies score a ton early, they also have given up 70 runs in the first inning to lead the majors. Their 21 first-inning home runs allowed are second-most in baseball.
The good news for Colorado is that they are on the road where runs and long balls are harder to come by than at Coors Field. And Bettis is the perfect example.
Bettis 5-1 overall with a 5.07 ERA, with all his decisions coming on the road, where he has a 2.72 ERA. At the start of play Saturday, Bettis’ five road victories were tied for third in the NL. He posted his sixth quality start on the road Tuesday at San Francisco, but did not get a decision.
There is added pressure on Bettis after the Rockies demoted Opening Day starter Jon Gray to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. In 17 starts this season, Gray was a disappointing 7-7 with a 5.77 ERA.
“This was the right time to get Jon to Triple-A to work on some things, not so much mechanically, but mentally, and to realize the inconsistencies that have been happening this season,” manager Bud Black told The Denver Post after the Rockies optioned Gray.
Stripling has been a bit more consistent.
In his past three outings, he is 1-1 with a no-decision. He beat the Giants, then lost to the Cubs despite giving up only three runs on June 20. Six days later, he went five innings and gave up one run in the no-decision.
“He’s been fantastic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of his starter. “For him to not be as sharp as usual and to keep (the Cubs) to one run in five innings is a credit to him. He gives us a chance every single time he takes the mound. He’s done more than exceed our expectations.”
After rolling through most of June behind an offense that hit a franchise-record 55 home runs for a single month, the Dodgers have looked less invincible in recent days. They split a four-game home series against the Cubs and now have lost two consecutive games to the Rockies.
The Rockies will not look back at their overall June play so fondly Golden Tate Jersey White , but they ended the month on a three-game win streak.
Colorado went 11-16 in the month. Nolan Arenado was a bright spot as he is the reigning NL Player of the Week. Arenado had home runs in seven of 10 games before play Saturday, a run that included a homer in four consecutive contests.
MILWAUKEE — Four months ago, Milwaukee Brewers manager Craig Counsell was trying to figure out how to fit Jesus Aguilar onto his roster. Now, Counsell is having a hard time taking the hard-hitting first baseman out of his starting lineup.
Aguilar has been Milwaukee’s hottest hitter over the last month, batting .283 with 12 home runs, 34 RBIs and a .964 OPS. Five of those home runs along with 12 RBIs have come over his last five games and he’s driven in multiple runs in five straight starts, tying a franchise record.
“He’s certainly been one of the most pleasant surprises (this year),” Counsell said. “He was last year, as well and he’s taken it up a notch this year. You need those kind of performances you weren’t expecting. You need that kind of stuff.”
All that from a player who came to spring training not sure if he’d have a job when the regular season opened.
Acquired off waivers ahead of the 2017 season, Aguilar split time at first with Eric Thames last year, forming a potent right-left platoon combo. But after the Brewers acquired outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain over the winter, the team planned to transition outfielder Ryan Braun as an occasional right-handed option at first, which seemingly diminished Aguilar’s role.
He played his way onto the roster with another strong spring training and established himself as a dangerous pinch-hitting threat before taking over first base on a more regular basis when Thames was lost to a thumb injury on April 25.
“I’m confident in myself. When I get a chance to go, I’m going to give my 100 percent. That’s how I think.”
Thames, who’s spent the majority of his playing time in the outfield since returning June 11, is still adjusting to the position but is happy for his teammate.
“I mean, hey http://www.lionscheapshop.com/cheap-aut ... iii-jersey , the team is winning,” Thames said. “It was the same thing for him the first half of last year when I was going off. It’s great because we’re winning and today, he pretty much did it himself and it was awesome. I’m happy for him. He works hard. He’s such a smart hitter, smart player. He’s a great team guy so you can’t help but root for him.”
His bat — as well as his defensive ability — have been a source of comfort for Brewers pitchers this season and will be Saturday for Chase Anderson, who takes the mound for Game 2 of the Brewers’ four-game series with the Cardinals at Miller Park.
Anderson has yet to find the consistency that led to his breakout season a year ago. He’s 5-6 with a 4.54 ERA through his first 15 starts and has struggled keeping the ball inside the park.
He’s allowed 15 home runs this season — one more than he gave up in all of 2017 — with 13 of those coming at Miller Park, where he’s 3-3 with a 5.70 ERA this season.
He gave up two home runs in the opening inning his last time out, upping his first-inning ERA this season to 8.36.
“It’s just one of those deals,” Anderson said. “That’s kind of been my thing since I was a kid. Obviously, I need to correct it and work on it and get better at getting guys out quicker. Something to work on.”
The Cardinals answer with right-hander Miles Mikolas, who’s 1-0 with a 6.00 ERA in two career starts against the Brewers, both of which came this season.
He allowed four runs over 5 2/3 innings but took the victory on April 2 at Miller Park but didn’t factor in the decision after giving up another four runs, this time over 6 1/3 innings, in a 5-4 Cardinals loss on April 9 in St. Louis.
“He pounds the strike zone and uses multiple pitches,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “It’s just not every day you come across starters who can do that … and then to have durability and consistency to stay in the game as long as he has.”
A victory Saturday would mark Milwaukee’s second series victory over the Cardinals in three tries this season.
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