LOS ANGELES -- Ricky Nolasco's dreams became reality on Sunday afternoon in his first start at Chavez Ravine as a member of the Dodgers. But it wasn't a happy homecoming.
Nolasco gave up three runs on eight hits in five innings and the Dodgers fell to the Rockies, 3-1, at a sold-out Dodger Stadium. Despite the loss, Los Angeles enters the All-Star break with the best record in the Major Leagues since June 22 (17-5).
Acquired in a trade with the Marlins on July 6, Nolasco, who grew up in nearby Corona, had hundreds of family and friends in attendance. But the right-hander was unable to match his Dodgers' debut, when he fired seven innings of one-run ball to beat the D-backs last Tuesday. Nolasco struck out four on Sunday, but walked three and hit Carlos Gonzalez with a pitch.
"It was exciting and stuff like that, but the main thing we have to do here is win," Nolasco said. "We weren't able to do that, so I'm not too happy about that. It was nice, but a win would have made everything better."
Nolasco allowed a run in the first inning, as Dexter Fowler greeted him with a double down the right-field line and scored on a single by Michael Cuddyer. But Nolasco settled in and held the Rockies scoreless for the next three innings.
Despite all the possible distractions, Nolasco said he wasn't nervous when he took the mound at Dodger Stadium for the first time with the team he grew up watching.
"I thought I did a good job of just staying calm," said Nolasco, who imitated Ramon Martinez and Chan Ho Park as a kid playing baseball with his brother in their front yard. "I've been pitching in this game and this league for a long time, so I think that helped."
Cuddyer was the spoiler again in the fifth, belting a hanging breaking ball into the right-field bleachers for a two-run homer that gave the Rockies a 3-0 lead.
"I had a little bit of control issues and just wish I could have that one pitch back to Cuddyer," Nolasco said. "He's a good hitter and he did a great job of not trying to pull it and going with it. I'd like to have it back, but at the same time, this is the big leagues and good hitters are going to do that."
Yasiel Puig sparked the Dodgers in the bottom half with a pinch-hit single in his first at-bat since Friday. Bothered by a bruised left hip for over a week, Puig ran well on the bases and scored from second on a two-out single by Adrian Gonzalez. The first baseman leads the Dodgers with 59 RBIs.
But that was all the Dodgers mustered against Rockies starter Jhoulys Chacin, who won his ninth game. Chacin struck out six over six innings, allowing six hits and walking three.
Fowler took a home run away from A.J. Ellis in the fourth with a leaping catch at the wall in center. The Dodgers stranded eight men on base and were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
"I think we played an outstanding series," said Rockies manager Walt Weiss. "We played lights out, we held the Dodgers to two runs in the last three games. That's a team offensively that's going better than anybody in all the game."
As the Dodgers prepare for a four-day layoff during the All-Star break, they take solace in the fact they remain 2 1/2 games behind Arizona in the National League West. Three weeks ago, the Dodgers were last in the division and 9 1/2 games behind.
"We're right in the middle of it," Gonzalez said. "If we continue to play good baseball when we come back, I think we'll be in good shape."
The Dodgers' turnaround coincided with better results against division opponents. They are 14-4 over their past 18 games against the NL West, after beginning the season 9-23 against division rivals.
"I think that's been the key," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Early on, we didn't play well against our own division and we got ourselves in trouble. At this point, we're in it. We got hot at the right time, when everybody else cooled off."
The Dodgers will use the break to get healthy, something they've been unable to do for much of the first half. Starting pitchers Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett were lost for the season, and Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, Zack Greinke and Mark Ellis each spent time on the disabled list.
"It's been unscripted," Mattingly said. "It ended up OK. We survived it."
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.