Juan Nicasio has done more than just come back from his frightening broken neck. He has come back strong.
Nicasio pitched six solid innings, Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run double and the Colorado Rockies overcame Matt Kemp 's latest homer, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 6-2 Monday night in the first of 18 meetings this season between the NL West rivals.
"Every time he takes the mound is pretty special, knowing that he was real close to losing his life and he's still getting to pitch and live out his dream, which is pretty neat," Tulowitzki said. "But it's more than that. We needed a performance like that. The bullpen has been getting a lot of innings and some guys needed rest out there and he picked the team up big-time."
Continuing his remarkable comeback from the C-1 vertebra fracture he suffered last August when he was hit in the head by a line drive against Washington, Nicasio (2-0) gave up two runs and nine hits. He struck out four and walked two in helping the Rockies cool off the streaking Dodgers, who were coming off a series sweep of the Nationals.
Kemp hit his major league-leading 12th homer for Los Angeles, which owns the best record in the NL at 16-7.
"We've got to be happy where we're at. But it's way too early to be thinking anything other than we've got off to a good start," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "We played well. We've won some close games. We've showed some good things, but we've just got to keep going."
The Dodgers put themselves in position to do just that but the Rockies escaped a bases-loaded, none-out threat against the middle of the batting order in the seventh inning.
Nicasio faced two batters in the seventh, giving up consecutive singles to Jerry Hairston and Dee Gordon before being relieved by Esmil Rogers , who walked Mark Ellis to load the bases. That brought up Kemp, who homered in his first at-bat, driving the first pitch he saw from Nicasio over the yellow border atop the right-field wall.
Rogers fanned Kemp in a tense, seven-pitch at-bat, getting him to swing through a slider for the final strike.
Rogers was relieved by Rex Brothers , who struck out Andre Ethier . Edgmer Escalona got James Loney to pop up, allowing the Rockies to wriggle out of the jam unscathed.
"I was happy," said a beaming Nicasio, who watched the dramatic confrontations unfold from the dugout. "They got out of there with no runs."
Said Brothers: "That's one of those points in the game where it could have went south, but we executed some pitches and did some good things, so hopefully we get a little momentum and keep things rolling."
Kemp said the Dodgers had their chance.
"We didn't get the job done. That's it, man. They got us out," he said.
Colorado padded its lead in the bottom half when Michael Cuddyer drew a leadoff walk, Marco Scutaro singled and, one out later, Carlos Gonzalez singled for his second RBI of the night.
Trailing at the outset, the Rockies tied it in the first when Scutaro led off with a double and scored on successive groundouts by Jonathan Herrera and Gonzalez.
The Rockies went in front with a three-run fourth off starter Aaron Harang (1-2), who went 5 2-3 innings and gave up five runs on six hits.
Herrera singled and Gonzalez walked ahead of Tulowitzki's go-ahead double that rolled into the left-field corner. Tulowitzki went to third on the throw home and, one out later, Ramon Hernandez lifted a sacrifice fly to the center-field warning track.
After Juan Uribe drove in Loney with a sixth-inning single that pulled the Dodgers to 4-2, Hernandez delivered his second RBI of the night in the bottom half with a two-out double to rebuild a three-run cushion for the Rockies.