Jhoulys Chacin outduels Clayton Kershaw as Rockies blank Dodgers

DENVER -- Clayton Kershaw is making a name for himself as one of the top young pitchers in the game.

A little less heralded, Jhoulys Chacin showed signs of joining the club.

Chacin scattered five hits over seven sharp innings and Troy Tulowitzki broke out of a hitting funk with a solo homer, helping the Colorado Rockies to a 3-0 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night.

"Jhoulys was awesome, phenomenal," Tulowitzki said. "Anytime you hold a team to no runs, you pitch pretty good."

Chacin (1-0) struck out four in his season debut as the hard-throwing righty outdueled Kershaw (1-1), who lasted six innings and allowed three runs.

"I pitched how I was expecting to pitch," Chacin nonchalantly said. "I did what I was supposed to do -- throw strikes and win the game."

The left-handed Kershaw didn't have his best stuff, giving up homers to Tulowitzki and Chris Iannetta, something he rarely does. Kershaw allowed just 0.57 homers per nine innings last season, one of the lowest marks in the NL.

"It was a frustrating night," Kershaw said. "They put some good swings on it. I'm not going to discredit them. They hit some balls hard, they hit some balls far."

Burdened by the demands of signing a lucrative long-term deal over the winter, Tulowitzki was pressing a little bit, trying to pay back the team's faith in him. He was hitless in his first nine at-bats to begin the year.

But that dubious streak ended with a towering homer to center in the fourth.

Like that, a weight was lifted.

"It was only two games. A lot of people were panicking or something," Tulowitzki said. "I wasn't very happy myself. I always want to get hits. But at the same time, you look at it and it is two games."

And showing that even in a slump the cleanup hitter is still feared at the plate, the Dodgers intentionally walked Tulowitzki with two outs and a runner on third in the sixth. Jose Lopez followed with an RBI single up the middle, staking Colorado to a 3-0 lead.

Tulowitzki also turned in a nifty play with his glove, ranging deep into the hole at short, leaping and throwing across his body to barely nip Jamey Carroll at first.

Iannetta hit his first homer of the year, sending a 93-mph fastball from Kershaw into the left-field bleachers. He's off to a sizzling start, hitting .444.

This is widely considered a make-or-break year for Iannetta, especially after struggling in recent seasons. The team awarded him the catching job outright, with no real competition to steal it away.

"This is what you prepare for in spring training, to come out and play well," Iannetta said. "It's not a given that it's going to happen. But it's a good feeling to start off like this."

Chacin had his first appearance pushed back two days after a rainout Sunday and a scheduled off day Monday. He was antsy early, but settled into a groove. His fastball popping, he worked his way out of one jam after another.

The 23-year-old has typically fared well against the Dodgers in his young career, improving to 4-3 with a 2.40 ERA.

Kershaw was coming off a season opener in which he struck out nine in seven stellar innings against the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants.

So dominant was Kershaw that Rockies manager Jim Tracy said before the game he belonged on the short list of NL Cy Young candidates.

Kershaw wasn't nearly as sharp in the thin air at Coors Field, striking out eight before being pulled for a pinch hitter in the seventh.

"He's one of the best in the game. He's given us problems since I've been here," Tulowitzki said of Kershaw. "He has great stuff. I don't think you're ever onto him, but you can get some good swings off of him every once in a while. I think if you talked to him he'll say he missed a couple of spots."

Third baseman Ty Wigginton saved a run in the fifth. With two outs and Carroll on third, Tony Gwynn Jr. hit a high chopper that Wigginton retreated on, snared, set and skipped across the diamond to Todd Helton, who dug it out just before Gwynn stepped on the bag.

It was that kind of game for the Dodgers.

"We had some chances tonight," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "That guy [Chacin] has given us trouble in the past. He's pitched well against us. He's got good stuff."

Game notes
Mattingly said it's likely INF Casey Blake will be activated Wednesday. Blake went on the DL, retroactive to March 22, with a back injury. ... The Rockies may have to juggle their rotation later this week if the cracked cuticle on ace Ubaldo Jimenez's pitching hand doesn't heal soon.