The cloudy skies have cleared and it's only getting sunnier in Dodgerland.
As they continue their charge in the National League West, the Dodgers' series-opening 6-1 victory over the Rockies Thursday night pushed them over .500 for the first time since April 15. The hottest team in baseball will eye their sixth consecutive victory and 17th in their last 20 games when their four-game series with the Rockies continues Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
Even with Troy Tulowitzki and Dexter Fowler back in the lineup Thursday for the first time in nearly a month, the Rockies slipped back to five games under .500, tied for their worst mark this year. Tulowitzki and Fowler finished a combined 0-for-8.
Things won't get much easier for Colorado when the Dodgers tab All-Star ace Clayton Kershaw. Kershaw has been nearly unhittable lately, allowing just three earned runs over his last three starts, all wins.
The Rockies reunion with Kershaw has come sooner than they hoped, as just 10 days ago he pitched a shutout at Coors Field in an 8-0 Dodgers victory. With the All-Star break around the corner, he leads the Majors in ERA, opponent's batting average and WHIP.
"Our starting pitching during this run has been amazing," said catcher A.J. Ellis, who is riding a nine-game hitting streak. "We've got guys who are stepping up, giving us good starts and giving the offense a chance to score runs and add on runs."
After a brief run with Triple-A Colorado Springs, Nicasio will get the nod for Colorado in place of the injured Roy Oswalt. Nicasio's last start for the Rockies came on June 25, when he surrendered six earned runs and 12 hits in just 2 1/3 innings, his worst start of the year.
He showed promise in his final Minor League start July 5, throwing eight shutout innings without a walk and giving up just five hits.
"It's throwing strikes, being in good counts, being more efficient," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "It's got to be a put-away pitch, so he doesn't have to deal with extended at-bats. We all know he's got the big arm, but it's a matter of being more efficient and getting strike one.
Nicasio may have one thing going for him, however, as Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig is day to day after aggravating a hip injury and exiting Thursday's game after seven innings.
Dodgers: Ramirez has shot at history
Shortstop Hanley Ramirez is on the verge of becoming the first Dodger since at least 1933 to head into the All-Star break with an average above .400.
Ramirez, who went 0-for-2 with a walk on Thursday, is batting .402 through 36 games after coming off the disabled list in early June.
• Kershaw will be the Dodgers' lone representative at the upcoming All-Star game after Puig and Gonzalez both missed out on the final National League roster spot in the Final Vote.
Puig (.397, eight homers, 19 RBIs) finished second and Gonzalez (.302, 14 homers, 58 RBIs) fifth behind Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who earned his first All-Star selection.
Rockies: Helton breaks top 100
Todd Helton singled twice Thursday night, moving him into a tie for 100th on Major League Baseball's career hits list.
Helton, who broke into the big leagues in 1997, is tied with former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas with 2,468 hits. He also ranks 19th with 577 doubles, the most of any active player.
• Fowler is 15-for-34 with four walks and three extra-base hits in his career against Kershaw.
• After taking four of six against Los Angeles to open the year, the Rockies have dropped three of their last four to the Dodgers.
• Kershaw has not lost to the Rockies since April 5, 2011.
Ian McCue is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.