By Jon Weisman
It was like he never left, or that he was gone too long.
Either way, Brandon McCarthy was a sight for no longer sore eyes Sunday at Dodger Stadium, striking out eight in five shutout innings of a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery, in the Dodgers 4-1 sweep-completing victory over Colorado.
Backed by a three-run second inning in which he drew a bases-loaded walk, McCarthy glided through first big-league game in 14 months, retiring 15 of 18 batters faced on 72 pitches and striking out the final three.
Brandon McCarthy: "The first strikeout I was like, 'OK, at least I didn't end my career on a home run to Justin Upton.'"
— Matthew Moreno (@MMoreno1015) July 4, 2016
In the three-game series, the Dodgers outscored the Rockies, 15-2, with the starting pitchers throwing 17 shutout innings in which they allowed 11 baserunners and struck out 26. The Dodger bullpen chipped in with 10 innings of two-run ball, with three walks and 15 strikeouts.
Pulled together, the Dodger pitching staff struck out 41 in 27 innings with a 0.67 ERA.
Solo homers by Trayce Thompson (his 13th) and Yasmani Grandal (his 8th) and an RBI single by Justin Turner helped complete the scoring. Corey Seager had two singles to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, matching the longest in the National League this year.
For the third season in a row, the Dodgers entered their 84th game of the season with a 46-37 record and left it with a 47-37 record. They remain five games behind the San Francisco Giants for the lead in the NL West, but closed within 5 1/2 games of the Cubs and Rangers, who have the best records in the Major Leagues.
Update: Jack Baer of MLB.com has more from McCarthy …
… The only real surprise to come out of McCarthy’s start was how short it was, despite his effectiveness, since manager Dave Roberts said before the game McCarthy would be under no limitations. McCarthy was pulled after 72 pitches and had just struck out the side in the fifth. Roberts said after the game he didn’t want to put out a hard number.
“We’re still monitoring pitch count, making sure we’re conservative with things,” McCarthy said. “I haven’t built up too far in my rehab, but got into a good place where it was two times through the lineup and my pitch count was manageable, so he said good job and that was enough.”
McCarthy reached a high of 72 pitches in his rehab assignment during his last start with Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga. He brought the heat Sunday, hitting 95 mph late into his appearance.
“That’s part of the coming back, we monitor everything and track things,” McCarthy said. “If there was some velocity dip late in the games or something was happening that was worrying, I don’t think they would have let me make this start.” …