Thrust into playoff contention upon his July 6 trade to the Dodgers, Ricky Nolasco has picked up his game to match the circumstances.
The veteran right-hander will take the mound against the Rockies on Tuesday night at Coors Field on the heels of a career-best month. Nolasco, 6-1 with a 2.20 ERA for Los Angeles, went 5-0 in six August outings, producing a 1.64 ERA.
He'll face another hot pitcher, Colorado's Jhoulys Chacin, in the second meeting of a three-game series after the Dodgers pulled out a 10-8 victory in Monday's opener. It was the the fifth consecutive victory for the National League West leaders, who evened their season series against Colorado at 7-7.
Nolasco has not fared too well at Coors Field, with a 5.45 ERA over five career starts, but he has been at the top of his game lately. He has authored consecutive starts of eight scoreless innings, holding the opposition to five total hits, with one walk and 17 strikeouts.
"It definitely is a different feeling when you're going out there pitching for this team right now with this lineup going and how dangerous we are," Nolasco said after defeating the Cubs on Wednesday. "I'm making better pitches. Mentally, I'm more focused."
The Rockies have won three straight series for the first time since April 20 and will need another strong performance from Chacin (13-7, 3.08 ERA) if they hope to extend that streak.
The righty has established himself atop the Rockies' rotation, posting a 2.11 ERA over his past 10 outings, nine of which were quality starts. On Wednesday, Chacin put together the longest no-hit bid for a Rockies pitcher at Coors Field before giving up a single to the Giants' Brandon Crawford with two outs in the seventh inning. He exited after that frame, having struck out nine and walked two.
"What makes him so good is he doesn't leave you anything really in the middle of the zone," Giants first baseman Brandon Belt said. "He kind of nibbles around a little bit and he makes you go after his pitch."
Dodgers: Young could get first start
Michael Young, acquired on Saturday, is likely to make his first start for the club Tuesday. Manager Don Mattingly said Young could fill in at third base, with Juan Uribe 0-for-15 with six strikeouts in his career against Chacin.
Young mostly will come off the bench for the Dodgers but figures to see some starts at both third and first base. The 36-year-old joined Los Angeles on Monday, debuting as a pinch-hitter and striking out.
A .276 hitter this season with eight home runs, 42 RBIs and a .731 OPS, Young is 0-for-1 against Chacin.
• Right fielder Yasiel Puig left Monday's game with a mild right knee strain in the sixth inning.
Rockies: Arenado impressing with leather
Rookie third baseman Nolan Arenado committed an error on Monday and had another misplay that helped the Dodgers score a run. But for the most part, Arenado has been excellent at the hot corner, possibly even building a case for a Gold Glove Award.
"You hate to overstate things, but it's hard for me to remember a third baseman having a better year than Arenado's had defensively," manager Walt Weiss said. "I don't think you can play any better than he has defensively. He's been stellar.
"He plays with a lot of confidence for a young player and obviously the skill set is very impressive. He's got tremendous hands, great feet when he gets around the ball, a really strong arm and he plays with no fear at a very difficult position."
• The Rockies were hoping to have left fielder Carlos Gonzalez back in the lineup on Tuesday for the first time since Aug. 4. But Gonzalez, trying to come back from a sprained right middle finger, was scratched at Triple-A Colorado Springs on Monday.
• The Dodgers have scored nine runs on 18 hits over 11 2/3 innings in two games against Chacin this season.
• The top five batters in the Rockies' lineup all picked up two hits on Monday, and seven of their eight starting position players notched multihit games.