DENVER -- Like any smart veteran pitcher would do in this era of free agency, Zack Greinke cast a calculating eye on Joc Pederson at times when the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder came up at the end of the 2014 season. Who knows, figuring out how to get Pederson out might one day come in handy if fate should dictate they play for different teams.
And, frankly, Greinke said he wasn't blown away after all the hype he had read, and he tends to devour scouting reports on minor-league players. He has talked about one day working in a team's front office.
"There were a couple of things where, especially when veteran pitchers were pitching to him, it seemed like it was a pretty easy out," Greinke said. "At the end of the year last year, he didn't get many hits."
This spring, Greinke saw some changes in the Dodgers' new center fielder. Pederson still took the same, violent swing, but it covered more of the strike zone and a little beyond. He had worked hard to close those couple of holes Greinke observed a few months earlier.
"He's hitting some pitches I never thought he was going to be able to hit," Greinke said, "and he's still really young, so it's extra impressive."
It is certainly impressive from a visual perspective, especially when Pederson's home runs are soaring through thin air. Pederson continued his demolition work with another mammoth blast at Coors Field in the Dodgers' 9-8 win over the Colorado Rockies Tuesday night to avoid the doubleheader sweep. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the 480-foot shot to center field was the longest home run in the major leagues this season.
But when you get right down to it, a home run is a home run. Alex Guerrero hit one in the ninth inning that traveled about 70 feet shorter than Pederson's, but after Charlie Blackmon made a leaping attempt to catch it at the wall, he came down empty. Guerrero was jogging and hoping, not sure if he had hit it well enough to clear the fence. As it turns out, Blackmon got a piece of his glove on it, but not enough to keep the ninth-inning grand slam from clearing the fence.
Guerrero got a big smile on his face after the game when someone asked him how he liked hitting at Coors Field and no interpreter was necessary.
"Mucho," he said.
This stadium can wear down a pitching staff and exhaust a visiting team, unaccustomed to playing in games in which no lead is safe. That's why those extra six inches or so that Guerrero was able to hit the ball to get it past Blackmon were so crucial to the Dodgers' moods afterward. They were one strike away from getting swept in a doubleheader and having to answer yet more questions about their recent road woes.
Instead, the dugout erupted just as the stadium fell silent.
Meanwhile, in the visiting bullpen, Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen couldn't celebrate long. The minute Guerrero's home run cleared, he suddenly knew he'd be pitching in his first game in a week. He was the only Dodger in the building whose blood pressure must have gone up after the home run.
"I always prepare myself, because crazy stuff is going to happen here," Jansen said.
It would have been a lot crazier had Jansen not given it a boring ending, which is exactly his job description on the road. In his sixth outing this season, Jansen finally gave up a base runner. Carlos Gonzalez lined a one-out hit to right field and Chris Heisey dropped it, allowing him to take second base. He got as far as third, but Jansen struck out Ben Paulsen to end the game.
Just like that, with one swing and one good inning, what could have been the kind of loss that can corrode a whole stretch of the schedule wasn't. The Dodgers spent about 12 hours at Coors Field Tuesday. They didn't want to leave it empty-handed.
"What it does for this day is turn a kind of down day to a split and you kind of get done what you need to get done," Mattingly said. "It just turns this whole day and gives us momentum, hopefully, for tomorrow."