Bud Norris knows a thing or two about quick transitions. When he was traded from Houston to Baltimore while the Astros were in Camden Yards on July 31, 2013, he simply switched dugouts, changed uniforms and pitched for his new team against his former team the following night.
So the veteran right-hander was not fazed by a 32-hour stretch in which he was informed of his trade from Atlanta to the Dodgers on Thursday afternoon in Turner Field, flew across country Thursday night, took an afternoon nap Friday and was on the Dodger Stadium mound Friday night.
“It’s kind of a whirlwind thing, but at the end of the day, I just wanted to be ready to pitch,” said Norris, who grew up in the Bay Area. “It’s the game I love, that I’ve been playing since I was a kid. It’s exciting for me to come home and play on the West Coast and be in a pennant race again.”
Norris was acquired as a stopgap, but he looked more like a stopper Friday night, ingratiating himself to his new teammates with six dominant innings in a 5-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Norris held a robust lineup that entered Friday with a National League-leading 418 runs and .809 on-base-plus-slugging percentage to two singles. His eight strikeouts matched a season high. He walked one and hit a batter. Of his 88 pitches, 53 were strikes.
“Six scoreless innings, eight punchouts … we could not have scripted it any better,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “I know he was excited about being in a Dodgers uniform. He felt the electricity out there tonight. He was focused, and he worked well with Yasmani [Grandal, the Dodgers catcher].”
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% ground-ball rate.
Norris, the 10th starting pitcher the Dodgers have used this season, shattered Cristhian 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 cut fastball 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.
“I was expecting more balls in play on the ground, but he’s still got velocity and was getting ahead of guys tonight,” Roberts said. “That’s a good hitting club over there, and he was very efficient.”
Was Friday night’s performance an indication that Norris could be more than a temporary solution for the injury-ravaged Dodgers rotaton?
“Absolutely,” Roberts said. “We got him because we felt he was a front-line guy the way he was throwing the baseball his last three or four turns. For him to pitch like this, I see no reason why he shouldn’t stay in the rotation.”
Adam Liberatore, Louis Coleman, Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez combined for three scoreless innings in relief of Norris, with Blanton making a barehand grab of Adames’ one-hopper and throwing to first to end the eighth with a runner on second to preserve a 2-0 lead.
The Dodgers broke a scoreless tie in the fourth when Chase Utley, starting against a left-hander for the first time this season, walked, took third on Corey Seager’s single, which extended the shortstop’s hitting streak to 14 games, and scored on Adrian Gonzalez’s single to right.
Howie Kendrick and Yasiel Puig singled to open the seventh and advanced on Nick Hundley’s passed ball. Jorge De La Rosa balked in a run for a 2-0 Dodgers lead.
The Dodgers tacked on three runs in the eighth for a 5-0 lead, Seager sparking the rally with a one-out single, Justin Turner cracking a double to left, and Gonzalez (single to right), Kendrick (double to right) and Scott Van Slyke (sacrifice fly) driving in runs.