LOS ANGELES: The stopgap looked more like a stopper Friday night, Bud Norris ingratiating himself with his new Dodgers teammates with six dominant innings in a 5-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies in Dodger Stadium.
Acquired from Atlanta in a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency trade Thursday, Norris did a fair impersonation of the ace he replaced in the rotation, Clayton Kershaw, who was sidelined this week by a herniated disk in his back.
The right-hander held a robust lineup that entered Friday with a National League-leading 418 runs and .809 on-base-plus-slugging percentage to two hits, both singles. He matched a season high with eight strikeouts, walked one and hit a batter. Of his 88 pitches, 53 were strikes.
Adam Liberatore, Louis Coleman, Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez combined for three scoreless relief innings, with Blanton making a barehand grab of Cristhian Adames’ firm one-hopper and throwing to first to end the eighth with a runner on second to preserve a 2-0 lead.
Norris, 31, was demoted from the Braves’ rotation to the bullpen after going 1-1 with an 8.74 earned-run average in five April starts. He regained a starting role in June after scrapping an ineffective changeup for a cut fastball that turned him into more of a ground-ball pitcher.
Norris had a 2.15 ERA in five June starts — four of them wins for the lowly Braves. He held opposing hitters to a .200 average, striking out 29 and walking eight in 291/3 innings, and produced a 59.2 percent ground-ball rate.
Norris had the third-best wins above replacement (WAR) among starting pitchers in June, trailing only Miami ace Jose Fernandez and Kershaw.
“His last few turns,” Roberts said, “have been as good as anybody in the National League.”
Norris, the 10th starting pitcher the Dodgers have used this season, shattered Adames’ bat on a first-inning groundout, but he didn’t look much like a ground-ball specialist Friday night.
Mixing a fastball that touched 96 mph with his cutter and slider, Norris struck out seven of 14 batters through four innings, including No. 3 hitter Nolan Arenado and No. 5 hitter Mark Reynolds twice.
Norris struck out Brandon Barnes with a 94-mph fastball with two on to end the second. He got Nick Hundley to ground into a double play in the fifth. Barnes then crushed an 84-mph slider to deep center, but Trayce Thompson caught it at the wall to end the fifth.
Charlie Blackmon smoked a one-out double over the head of right fielder Yasiel Puig in the sixth, but Norris retired Adames and Arenado on fly balls to left.
The Dodgers broke a scoreless tie in the fourth when Chase Utley, starting against a left-hander for the first time this season, drew a leadoff walk from Rockies starter Jorge De La Rosa.
Corey Seager singled to center to extend his hitting streak to 14 games and advance Utley to third. Justin Turner struck out, but Adrian Gonzalez sneaked a run-scoring grounder through the second-base hole for a 1-0 lead.
Both runners advanced on Howie Kendrick’s groundout, and Puig walked to load the bases. Thompson beat out a broken-bat roller up the middle, but the close call at first was overturned on replay, nullifying a run and ending the inning.
Kendrick and Puig singled to open the seventh and advanced on Hundley’s passed ball. De La Rosa balked in a run for a 2-0 Dodgers lead, but Barnes, the Colorado left fielder, prevented a bigger inning with a strong one-hop throw to the plate to nail Puig, who tried to tag and score on Thompson’s fly ball.
The Dodgers tacked on three big insurance runs in the eighth for a 5-0 lead, Seager sparking the rally with a one-out single, Turner cracking a double to left, and Gonzalez (single to right), Kendrick (double to right) and Scott Van Slyke (sacrifice fly to left) driving in runs.