Beth Harris, AP sports writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) — Jon Gray reached double-digit strikeouts for the sixth time this season. Nothing else came easy for him.
The right-hander labored through 106 pitches over four innings, giving up four runs and three hits in Colorado’s 5-2 loss to the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers on Friday night. The Rockies endured their 81st defeat and fourth in five games.
“I knew from the beginning it would be a tough day with no fastball command,” Gray said. “Fastball command is number one when it comes to pitching. Without that it is incredibly tough to succeed.”
Joc Pederson and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning for the Dodgers after an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring Vin Scully.
Both teams crowded their dugouts to watch speakers including Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and current ace Clayton Kershaw honor Scully, who is retiring at 88 after 67 years broadcasting Dodgers games.
“Getting to see that takes a little sting out of that loss,” Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. “That was special. Vin is a special guy. You can see how everyone felt. It was very heartfelt.”
Gray (10-9) has 26 strikeouts in his last two games, the most in such a span in Rockies history.
“His stuff was crisp, he just didn’t command it well,” Weiss said.
Their third straight victory trimmed the Dodgers’ magic number for clinching a record fourth consecutive NL West title to two. Their division lead increased to seven games after San Francisco lost at San Diego 7-2.
Pederson worked the count to 3-2 during a nine-pitch at-bat before homering off Gray with two outs. Ethier followed with his first homer of the season into the lower right field seats, extending the Dodgers’ lead to 4-0.
Yasmani Grandal’s RBI single gave Los Angeles a 2-0 lead in the first. Corey Seager scored from third and Colorado catcher Tom Murphy had his back to the plate as he fielded the throw from right field, allowing Justin Turner to score from second.
Ross Stripling (5-8) got the win in relief of injured Scott Kazmir. The rookie right-hander allowed two hits in three innings, struck out four and walked two.
Kenley Jansen retired the side with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth for his 47th save in 53 chances.
Kazmir allowed two hits while tossing just 19 pitches in his first start for the Dodgers since Aug. 22. He left after one inning because of spasms in his ribs and chest. The left-hander spent the past month on the disabled list with neck inflammation.
Colorado scored its runs in the sixth on Nolan Arenado’s NL-leading 40th homer and Tom Murphy’s RBI single. Arenado’s 129 runs lead the NL and he joined Vinny Castilla (1996-98) and Andres Galarraga (1996-97) as the only Rockies hitters to post consecutive 40-homer seasons.
“He is doing big-time stuff,” Weiss said. “His first few years in the league, he’s special.”
Colorado Carlos Gonzalez doubled in the eighth, giving him 40 doubles for the first time in his career. He finished 2 for 4. He’s had six doubles in 14 games since Sept. 9.
What a catch
Josh Reddick charged a ball hit by Colorado’s DJ LeMahieu to right field, catching it on the run and completing a cartwheel to hold the runner at third base with two outs in the third. LeMahieu went 0 for 4, ending his 38-game on-base streak and 13-game hitting streak. He continues to lead the majors with a .349 batting average.
Rockies: RHP Chad Bettis (13-7, 4.79) has career highs in victories, starts (30) and innings pitched (174 2/3). He is 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in seven career games, including four starts, against Los Angeles.
Dodgers: Kershaw (11-3, 1.73) is 7-1 with a 1.19 ERA in nine home starts.