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2021 Colorado Rockies: Home Opener Preview

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The 2021 Colorado Rockies are looking to break a curse if you will. Over the past five years, they’ve only managed a 31-56 record against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team they’ll face to begin the season at Coors Field.

The Dodgers loaded (or rather, reloaded) up on talent again this offseason, and returning are many of the regulars that led them to a World Series title in 2020. The Rockies, meanwhile, missed the postseason entirely, traded away Nolan Arenado, did little else of note, and spent a few months getting ridiculed by baseball fans and baseball media as a whole. Even if a lot of it was people piling on, the Rockies didn’t do themselves any favors.

Quite the difference, I’d say, and these two squads will meet up on April 1st in front of at best 21,363 fans as the Dodgers look to defend their title and the 2021 Colorado Rockies look to shock the world and prove all the projections wrong. We’ll go over the pitching matchups, the injury reports, the scheduling, and more.

(Note: All times are PM unless specified)

GAME 1: Kershaw vs. Marquez | April 1st (4:10 ET, 2:10 MT, 1:10 PT)

The 2021 Colorado Rockies will send their best pitcher to the mound for the second season in a row, with the Dodgers countering with their veteran and future Hall of Famer, who’ll be making his franchise-record ninth Opening Day start. German Márquez led the NL in innings pitched last season with 81.2 and pitched to a career-low 3.75 ERA, and the lefty Clayton Kershaw was his usual dominant self at age 33, posting a 2.16 ERA over 58.1 IP.

Worth noting:

  • Márquez has a 2.54 ERA in nine career starts against the Dodgers.
  • Kershaw and Márquez both struggled a bit in Spring Training.
  • It’s unlikely Kershaw pitches more than five innings, as teams are looking to take it easy with starters to ease them into more than doubling their innings count compared to last season. The same applies to Márquez but to a lesser extent.

The game will be available on SportsNet LA, ATT SportsNet-RM, and nationally televised on ESPN.

GAME 2: Bauer vs. Senzatela | April 2nd (8:40 ET, 6:40 MT, 5:40 PT)

Two pitchers with career years in 2020 will take the mound in Denver the day after Márquez and Kershaw kick things off. The world will get its first official look at Trevor Bauer in Dodger blue in games that count and opposing him will be righty Antonio Senzatela, one of 2020’s most improved pitchers and a key figure for the 2021 Colorado Rockies.

Some notes:

  • Bauer is the NL’s reigning Cy Young Award winner (1.73 ERA across 73 IP).
  • This matchup will certainly be a clash of styles, as Bauer had the third-highest K% among qualified pitchers last season (36%) while Senzatela had the lowest (13.5%).
  • Bauer has only one prior career start in Coors Field, and it didn’t go great (3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 5 BB, 3 K), but that was before his 2018 breakthrough.

The game will be available on SportsNet LA, ATT SportsNet-RM, and MLB Network (out-of-market only).

GAME 3: Buehler vs. Gray | April 3rd (8:10 ET, 6:10 MT, 5:10 PT)

Both Jon Gray and Walker Buehler pitched very little in 2020 (39 and 36.2 IP respectively) and they were both below expectations. While Buehler’s 3.44 ERA looks good, his 4.36 FIP was a career-high as a starter as he battled walks and homers. Gray had shoulder issues in 2020 that caused his velocity to drop and led to a career-worst 6.69 ERA and a precipitous drop in strikeouts.

Notes:

  • Jon Gray’s velocity has been back this Spring, so 2021 Colorado Rockies fans can exhale on that one.
  • Buehler is very likely to be on a strict workload limit once again as the Dodgers build him back up, so don’t expect any complete games here.
  • Gray is 4-1 lifetime with a 3.48 ERA when facing the Dodgers at Coors Field.

The game will be available on SportsNet LA, ATT SportsNet-RM, and FS1.

GAME 4: Urias vs. Gomber | April 4th (3:10 ET, 1:10 MT, 12:10 PT)

Two pitchers who expect to take a step forward into a bigger role this season will close out the series on April 4th. Julio Urías is coming off a tremendous run of 23 innings of 1.17 ERA ball in last year’s postseason capped off by a 2.1-inning save in Game 6 of the World Series, and he’s now expected to hold down a rotation spot full-time for the first time in his career.

Austin Gomber, on his end, was the main return in the Nolan Arenado trade, which only puts added pressure on him to perform for the 2021 Colorado Rockies. He’s been up to the task in Spring Training, but the regular season and Coors Field are a different beast. We’ll see how he does.

Some notes:

  • I’m gonna sound like a broken record, but expect the Dodgers to be cautious with Urías. The young lefty has never pitched more than 90 innings in a season at any level of pro ball and has dealt with injuries often.
  • Austin Gomber has said he’s not afraid of Coors and he’ll continue to use his curve and pitch like he always has. While I love the confidence, his first start is going to be a big test, facing the Dodgers at Mile-High Denver.

The game will be available on SportsNet LA and ATT SportsNet-RM.

The Injury Report

Dodgers:

The Dodgers have quite a few relievers who will likely be placed on the IL, with Brusdar Graterol being the biggest name of the bunch. Tommy Kahnle and Caleb Ferguson are still recovering from Tommy John surgery and Joe Kelly had a bout with shoulder soreness in February, so his status is still in question. The position player group should be good to go, however.

Rockies:

The 2021 Colorado Rockies got some more bad news when they couldn’t afford them. Kyle Freeland will miss at least a month with a shoulder strain, starting second baseman Brendan Rodgers will do the same with a strained hamstring and Scott Oberg had to undergo surgery for blood clots and is unlikely to ever pitch again. That’s three key pieces to the 2021 Colorado Rockies knocked out before a single meaningful game is played. Also, Peter Lambert is still recovering from TJ surgery but is expected to pitch later on this year.

Series Prediction:

Because Coors Field is Coors Field, you can never expect performances to be smooth and stable, so I can safely say that at least one ace will get destroyed in Denver this series. The Dodgers are simply galaxies better than the Rockies, however, so I think they’ll take the series.

Whether they sweep the Rox or not depends on Germán Márquez because that first game is the best chance Colorado will have to take one from the big bad wolf. The Dodgers have been a thorn on the side of Rockies fans for some time and while I’m more optimistic than most, I don’t expect the 2021 Colorado Rockies to change that.

Dodgers take the series 3-1

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Mario Delgado is a sound engineer and amateur (wishing to turn pro) baseball writer. I write for Overtime Heroics, MaxSportingStudio and on my own page.