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    LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Ross Stripling knows he will have to weather the early going Sunday if he wants to get back to his winning ways.

    Stripling will face a Colorado Rockies team that is known for fast starts. The Rockies lead all of baseball with 70 runs scored in the opening inning. They also lead the majors with 24 first-inning home runs.

    The Rockies are focused on trying to counter the Dodgers’ offensive muscle. Manager Bud Black is preaching to his pitchers to be aggressive.

    “We knew coming in (the Dodgers) had power [url=http://www.officialpredators.com/authentic-adidas-ryan-hartman-jersey]http://www.officialpredators.com/authentic-adidas-ryan-hartman-jersey[/url] ,” Black said. “We know that you have to keep the ball out of the middle of the plate. We have been attacking them and going after them to get into more favorable counts. That’s the message we send to all teams and we have to do it again (Sunday).”

    Keeping opponents in check early is one of the many things Stripling has excelled at during his breakout season. The Texas native has allowed one first-inning run in his 11 previous starts, and two extra-base hits.

    Rockies starter Chad Bettis also must prepare for a potential volatile first inning. Not only do the Rockies score a ton early, they also have given up 70 runs in the first inning to lead the majors. Their 21 first-inning home runs allowed are second-most in baseball.

    The good news for Colorado is that they are on the road where runs and long balls are harder to come by than at Coors Field. And Bettis is the perfect example.

    Bettis 5-1 overall with a 5.07 ERA, with all his decisions coming on the road, where he has a 2.72 ERA. At the start of play Saturday, Bettis’ five road victories were tied for third in the NL. He posted his sixth quality start on the road Tuesday at San Francisco, but did not get a decision.

    There is added pressure on Bettis after the Rockies demoted Opening Day starter Jon Gray to Triple-A Albuquerque on Saturday. In 17 starts this season, Gray was a disappointing 7-7 with a 5.77 ERA.

    “This was the right time to get Jon to Triple-A to work on some things, not so much mechanically, but mentally, and to realize the inconsistencies that have been happening this season,” manager Bud Black told The Denver Post after the Rockies optioned Gray.

    Stripling has been a bit more consistent.

    In his past three outings, he is 1-1 with a no-decision. He beat the Giants [url=http://www.officialdevils.com/authentic-adidas-marcus-johansson-jersey]Authentic Marcus Johansson Jersey[/url] , then lost to the Cubs despite giving up only three runs on June 20. Six days later, he went five innings and gave up one run in the no-decision.

    “He’s been fantastic,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of his starter. “For him to not be as sharp as usual and to keep (the Cubs) to one run in five innings is a credit to him. He gives us a chance every single time he takes the mound. He’s done more than exceed our expectations.”

    After rolling through most of June behind an offense that hit a franchise-record 55 home runs for a single month, the Dodgers have looked less invincible in recent days. They split a four-game home series against the Cubs and now have lost two consecutive games to the Rockies.

    The Rockies will not look back at their overall June play so fondly, but they ended the month on a three-game win streak.

    Colorado went 11-16 in the month. Nolan Arenado was a bright spot as he is the reigning NL Player of the Week. Arenado had home runs in seven of 10 games before play Saturday, a run that included a homer in four consecutive contests.

    The Washington Nationals‘ bats finally came alive Friday night. They hope that offense shows up again Saturday as the Nationals attempt to win two straight games for the first time in more than three weeks.

    After a 17-7 rout on Friday night, the Nationals can pull even with the Philadelphia Phillies for second place in the National League East with a win Saturday at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.

    Washington hit seven home runs against the Phillies on Friday, including two by rookie Juan Soto and the 20th of the season from Bryce Harper. The team scored 17 runs on 18 hits in the win after combining for three runs on 12 hits in its previous three games.

    The victory snapped a three-game losing streak for the Nationals, who are 9-15 in June and have not won consecutive games since June 5-6. Still, they are 42-38 on the season and one game behind the Phillies in the division.

    Right-hander Vince Velasquez (5-8, 4.69 ERA) will try to keep the Phillies in second place on Saturday.

    With one exception, Velasquez has been reliable for the Phillies over the last two months. The hard-throwing righty has allowed fewer than three earned runs in seven of his last 10 starts. He allowed 10 runs in 3 2/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on June 8 but has a 2.73 ERA in his other nine starts dating back to May 5.

    Velasquez, who averages 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings [url=http://www.officialdevils.com/authentic-adidas-michael-grabner-jersey]Michael Grabner Jersey[/url] , had seven strikeouts in six innings against the Yankees on Monday. He gave up two runs on three hits and four walks in the outing and took the loss as the Phillies’ offense struggled in the 4-2 defeat.

    “I had a couple walks here and there, and I had to pitch around some guys,” Velasquez told reporters after the game. “It’s a tough lineup to face.”

    Saturday’s start will be Velasquez’s sixth in his career against Washington. He is 2-2 with a 5.33 ERA and 1.333 WHIP in his first five starts. This season, Velasquez held the Nationals to one run on one hit and four walks over five innings in a May 5 start in which he got the win.

    Jeremy Hellickson is expected to be activated off the disabled list and make the Saturday start for the Nationals. Hellickson (2-0, 2.28) strained his right hamstring in a June 3 start and has not pitched since.

    He made a rehab start for Class A Potomac last Sunday and gave up 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings. But he said he felt healthy after the outing.

    “Physically, I felt fine,” Hellickson told the Washington Post last week. “I mean, obviously not how I wanted it to go, but I felt fine. Felt my stuff was pretty good. Just command was a little shaky, but (my) hammy was 100 percent.”

    Hellickson was solid before the injury. He posted a 1.30 ERA and .548 opponent OPS in five starts during May, and the Nationals won each of those outings.

    Hellickson pitched for the Phillies in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. In his only career start against Philadelphia, Hellickson did not allow an earned run in eight innings while with the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2015 season.

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