DENVER -- Can you imagine what a soggy Sasquatch must smell like?
The rain started not long after that furry-costumed creature threw out a ceremonial first pitch and it never really relented. After an uncomfortable 51/2 innings featuring an evacuation order for fans in the upper deck because of lightning, the Los Angeles Dodgers headed for cover and waited out a 95-minute delay before being awarded a rain-shortened 6-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Sunday afternoon.
"It was nice to get those runs before it came down," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said of the four-run burst the Dodgers had in the top of the sixth inning. "If it was close, you never know what happens (when the umpires consider calling the game)."
Uncertainty of a more primal kind gripped Dodgers center fielder Scott Van Slyke during the fifth inning.
While the Dodgers were on the field warming up for the bottom of the inning, lightning flashed in the distance and a loud -- really loud -- crack of thunder rumbled through the area. Van Slyke abandoned his position, tossed his hat aside and bolted for the dugout.
"It's not safe. It's irresponsible in my book," Van Slyke said of playing through the storm. "There was lightning right above the stadium and guys have metal cleats and metal stuff on the top of their hats. A lot of open space. It just takes one strike."
It was only a few minutes later that fans were informed via the scoreboard that a severe thunderstorm watch was in effect and fans in the upper deck were told to seek shelter.
"You don't play with that thunder. I'm from Oklahoma, man," said Matt Kemp who could be seen clutching his arms to his chest in left field -- either checking his heartbeat or laughing at Van Slyke's reaction.
The abbreviated game allowed the Dodgers to escape with a victory despite starting a lineup devoid of their two most dynamic players. Yasiel Puig and Dee Gordon did not play after suffering minor hip injuries in Saturday's game. Gordon said before the game that his legs were back to normal after Saturday's discomfort. Mattingly said he is hopeful that both he and Puig could be available Monday in Cincinnati.
Without those two, Mattingly put together a lineup featuring five bench players, four players who spent time at Triple-A Albuquerque this season and two making their first major-league starts (Miguel Rojas and Jamie Romak).
But Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa walked the first two batters he faced in a 35-pitch first inning. Kemp drove in two with a triple and the Dodgers never trailed. Kemp added a single and a walk before the game was called, going 5 for 10 in the Colorado series with a pair of triples and three RBI. Romak (a two-run double) and Rojas (RBI single) each got their first major-league hits in the four-run sixth.
Hanley Ramirez produced thunder of his own – a solo home run in the sixth that landed on the concourse behind the left-field seats, traveling an estimated 472 feet (the fourth-longest in the majors this season).
The rain didn't affect Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. He struck out the side each of the first two innings and nine in his five innings without walking a batter. That is the sixth time in seven starts since returning from the DL that Kershaw has struck out nine. In four of those starts, he struck out nine without issuing a walk.
"It's no secret I haven't pitched well here in the past," Kershaw said. "I really wanted to come out and just establish. Especially with a two-run lead there early, I just wanted to go out there and throw strikes and make them beat you."
First it was Erisbel Arruebarrena. Then it was Rojas. Both were promoted from the minors to give Mattingly a better defensive option at shortstop than Ramirez (the lowest-rated defender at the position in the majors this season according to most defensive metrics).
Mattingly has used both as late-game replacements for Ramirez in the past two weeks. After pulling him from one game on the homestand, Ramirez was visibly upset in the Dodgers' dugout.
But ask Ramirez about being pulled for a defensive replacement and he says all the right things.
"I'm a player. He told me to come out," Ramirez said. "I just want to win. I don't care about anything else.
"Donnie and me, we have a good relationship. He talked to me about it. Whatever it takes to win."
Right-hander Chad Billingsley re-started his minor-league injury-rehabilitation assignment Sunday by pitching 12/3 innings for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. He allowed two hits (a double in the first inning and a triple in the second), hit a batter, walked two and struck out two in a start limited to approximately 30 pitches. He is expected to pitch for the Quakes again on Friday. ... Catcher A.J. Ellis ran the bases as part of his pregame workout Sunday, another step forward in his recovery from a sprained ankle. "He felt good about the base running, felt good about everything," Mattingly said. "It sounds like he's encouraged."... Andre Ethier was not in the starting lineup Sunday against Rockies left-hander Jorge De La Rosa. But Mattingly said he also had "some light back stuff" going on.
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