LOS ANGELES — Scott Kazmir is running short on time to prove he belongs on the Dodgers’ postseason roster. Fresh off the disabled list, the veteran pitcher was dealt another blow when spasms cut short his start.
Ross Stripling picked up the slack with three scoreless innings of relief, Joc Pederson and pinch-hitter Andre Ethier hit back-to-back home runs in the fourth inning and the Dodgers defeated the Colorado Rockies 5-2 on Friday night after an emotional pre-game ceremony honoring Vin Scully.
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.
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 right spasms in his ribs and chest. The left-hander spent the past month on the disabled list with neck inflammation.
“It was tough for me to swallow,” he said. “It’s frustrating.”
Kazmir said the pain on his front side was similar to what he felt during a brief stint at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
“You can’t stay strong,” he said. “I had to not throw as hard.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed Kazmir to avoid the risk of further injury.
“I feel bad for Kaz,” Roberts said. “He’s gone through a lot and had high expectations for tonight, and the body wasn’t responding.”
Pederson worked the count to 3-2 during a nine-pitch at-bat before homering off Jon Gray (10-9) 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.
Stripling (5-8) allowed two hits in three innings, struck out four and walked two.
“It’s long relief, so it’s kind of like a start,” Stripling said. “I can still pitch the way I’m used to.”
Kenley Jansen retired the side with two strikeouts in a scoreless ninth for his 47th save in 53 chances.
Gray gave up four runs and three hits in four innings. The right-hander struck out 10 and walked three on 106 pitches. Gray was coming off a franchise-record 16 strikeouts in a complete-game 8-0 win over San Diego last weekend. His combined 26 strikeouts are the most in a two-game span in Colorado franchise history.
“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.”
Colorado scored its runs in the sixth on Nolan Arenado’s 40th homer leading off and Tom Murphy’s RBI single.
The Dodgers honored Scully on his appreciation night with fellow left-handers Sandy Koufax and Clayton Kershaw among those paying tribute to the 88-year-old Hall of Fame broadcaster who is retiring when the regular season ends next weekend.
“I should be on my knees to pray in thanksgiving for all the wonderful things that have happened to me,” said Scully, showered with the same roar of the crowd that first enticed him while listening to college football games on the family’s four-legged radio as an 8-year-old in the Bronx.
“I’ve loved this game for 80 years,” he said.
The Dodgers’ player of the game belt went to Stripling. The large decorated blue belt resembles one given to a prize fighter. “That thing weighs like 10 pounds,” Stripling said. “Technically, it goes to the whole bullpen but they let me keep it in my locker.”
The eight innings of relief set a single-season Dodgers record for most bullpen innings pitched with 559.0. The old mark of 553.0 was set in 2009.
Scully did a bit of lip-synching while his pre-recorded version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” played in the seventh inning. He had his arm around wife Sandi and a banner reading “I’ll Miss You!” was unrolled from his booth while the sellout crowd of 52,320 cheered him as they had all night.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
“As many times as I’ve been on this field, I’ve never been this nervous.” — 80-year-old Koufax said before addressing the crowd.
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’s 38-game on-base streak and 13-game hitting streak ended as he went 0 for 4.
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.