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COL@PIT: Nicasio hurls 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball

The Dodgers made a statement in their last series against the Nationals, as they swept the three-game set, ruined phenom Bryce Harper's Major League debut and are alone as the best team in the National League. They get the Rockies, a divisional rival, next -- and Colorado sits 5.5 games behind Los Angeles heading into Monday's contest.

Colorado pumped out a season-high 18 runs in the first of its three-game set with the Mets but lost the last two, including an extra-inning defeat Sunday. If the Rockies plan to stop the Dodgers' surprisingly fast start, they must do a better job on the mound, as they allowed 48 hits in their series against New York and will have to pitch to the hottest player in baseball, Matt Kemp.

Kemp enters Monday's game as the Major League leader in all three Triple Crown categories, slugging and OPS. His walk-off homer in Harper's debut Saturday set the franchise record for home runs in April. Now, he gets to hit at Coors Field in Colorado for three games, a place that's historically been known as a hitter-friendly park. His teammates are taking notice at just how special a talent he is.

"I've played with a lot of great players, but this guy is as good as it gets," said Jerry Hairston Jr.

Colorado has a slugger of its own in Carlos Gonzalez, who is starting to heat up. Gonzalez has hit all four of his homers in the past six games and has 11 of his 16 RBIs over that stretch. It's the type of production that manager Jim Tracy knows is possible at any time from his dynamic outfielder.

"It goes without saying the type of damage he can do as an offensive player when he forces people to throw pitches over the plate vs. expanding the strike zone," Tracy said. "He's a very dangerous hitter, whether it's a right- or left-handed pitcher standing out there."

The pitching matchup will feature Juan Nicasio of the Rockies against Aaron Harang, two pitchers coming off no-decisions in their last starts.

Dodgers: Rivera expected to return during Colorado series

Juan Rivera is expected to make a return to the Dodgers lineup during the team's three-game set against the Rockies. The outfielder missed three games nursing a sore hamstring before pinch-hitting Saturday, then sat out the series finale against the Nationals on Sunday.

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly has been exercising caution with Rivera.

"We feel like we're over the hump, but I don't want to panic and go to him a day early and go backward," Mattingly said before Sunday's contest.

Rockies: Pitching help on the way

Entering Sunday, Colorado had the second-worst team ERA in the National League and one of its biggest offseason acquisitions, Jeremy Guthrie, recently landed on the 15-day disabled list. The good news, however, is that the Rockies may be close to getting back Jorge De La Rosa, a fixture in the rotation in recent years, who missed the majority of 2011 after requiring Tommy John surgery.

The left-hander is scheduled to make a rehab start on May 2 for Class-A Modesto after throwing an impressive six innings in an extended Spring Training game Friday.

"[He'll throw] roughly five innings or 65 pitches," manager Jim Tracy said. "We'll take it one start at a time and just continue to stay on the same course that we've been on since he had to step away." Comments