Dodgers Between the Rockies and a Hard Place

DENVER, COLORADO-- Colorado, behind the crafty pitching of Jeff Francis, choked off the Dodger offense and collected a 3-1 win in the first game of a rare, afternoon-night doubleheader in Coors Field. Olmedo Saenz pinch-hit home run was the only run the Dodgers could come up with. It was only the third win this season for the Rockies while scoring three runs or less.

"His changeup made all the difference in the game," Dodger Manager Grady Little said afterwards. "We just couldn't handle him."

Los Angeles not only lost the game, they lost shortstop Rafael Furcal when his back stiffened up in the sixth inning. He had injured the game Sunday while sliding and he was not available for the second game and is day-to-day.

The Rockies are on a roll, winning their ninth game in the last 15 and have pulled within a game of the Dodgers, who are in third place.

Francis won his 16th game of the season, setting a new Rockies record in the process. He scattered six hits and three walks before leaving in the seventh. During his tour of duty Los Angeles was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position and finished 0-for-7.

Chad Billingsley certainly pitched well enough to win, allowing single runs in the fourth and sixth innings and leaving the game in the sixth after allowing only four hits. His record slipped to 11-5 with the loss.

The Billingsley-Francis matchup didn't seem to favor the Dodgers from the start.

Francis came into the game 15-8, 3-1 in eight games against the Dodgers and in six of them two runs allowed or less for a 2.82 ERA facing Los Angeles. Colorado was 20-11 in his starts and since May 7 he had been 14-4 3.92.

Billingsley had only pitched 18 innings in his career against the Rockies and had allowed 15 hits and seven runs for a 12.86 ERA. However, over his last four starts he came into the game 4-0 with a 1.64 earned run average and is 11-4 on the road in his short career.

Francis, a typical "crafty lefthander", kept the Dodgers off-balance through four innings, allowing four hits and walking three but giving up no runs.

Francis nailed James Loney in the first and third with two on, got Rafael Furcal in the fourth, again with two on, and retired Andy LaRoche and Andre Ethier in the second after the leadoff man reached.

Seven left on base, no runs.

Colorado scored in the last of the fourth on a double just inside the third base bag by leadoff man Cory Sullivan and a one-out single by Matt Holliday, the Rockies' candidate for Most Valuable Player. In between, Billingsley struck out the side.

Despite a pair of walks, he fanned two more in the fifth. But he ran into Sullivan again in the sixth and this time the Rockies outfielder doubled inside the first base bag.

After Matt Kemp made a run-saving catch of a line drive in right field, the Dodgers walked Holliday and brought in Mark Hendrickson to pitch to Todd Helton.

Helton dropped a little looping liner in front of Kemp and the Dodgers trailed 2-0.

Manager Grady Little opened the seventh by pinch-hitting Olmedo Saenz for Rafael Furcal who was 0-for-3 and hadn't a good swing against Francis in any of his at-bats.

Saenz caught a 2-2 pitch and hit it in a very high arching drive that dropped just over the left-field wall. It was his second pinch-hit homer of the season, his eighth as a Dodger and passed both Duke Snider and Bill Ashley on the franchise pinch-hit home run chart.

Francis struck out Pierre for the first out of the inning -- his 10th of the game -- and was replaced by LaTroy Hawkins. It was a career high and the most by a Rockies since 2003, a span of 661 games.

Kemp greeted Hawkins with a line double into right field corner. Kent hit a high shot into the same corner of the field but it was foul by less than a foot. Kent then bounced to short to end the threat.

Hendrickson allowed a single to open the bottom of the seventh and after a sacrifice bunt, rookie Joe Koshansky got his first major league hit, an RBI double into the right field corner, to get the run right back.

Proctor hit a pinch-hitter and walked another with two out to load the bases to bring up Holliday, who was hitting .344 against right handers, but Proctor kept the Dodgers in the game, forcing him to pop to first.

The final seven Dodgers went down in order and Rockies reliever Manny Corpas ran his record to 21 straight batters retired while saving his 15th game.

Martin and Kemp had a pair of hits each for the Dodgers, with Kemp boosting his batting average to .340, the second-best average in the National League behind Chipper Jones (.339) and the fifth-best in baseball among players with at least 250 plate appearances.

After using their youngest starter in the opener, Chad Billingsley (23), in the second game of the doubleheader the Dodgers give the ball to their oldest starter, David Wells (44), who will face Mark Redman.

Score by Innings Los Angeles 000 000 100-1 Colorado 000 101 10x-3 Las Angeles ab r h bi ave Furcal ss 3 0 0 0 .270 Saenz ph 1 1 1 1 .190 Valdez ss 0 0 0 0 .236 Sweeney ph 1 0 0 0 .254 Pierre cf 3 0 1 0 .291 Kemp rf 4 0 2 0 .340 Kent 2b 3 0 0 0 .296 Loney 1b 4 0 0 0 .325 Martin c 3 0 2 0 .295 LaRoche 3b 3 0 0 0 .193 Hendrickson p 0 0 0 0 .038 Proctor p 0 0 0 0 .000 Garciaparra ph 1 0 0 0 .281 Biemel p 0 0 0 0 .000 Ethier rf 4 0 0 0 .287 Billingsley p 2 0 1 0 .121 Abreu 3b 2 0 0 0 .262 Totals 34 1 7 1 Rockies 29 3 7 3 2B- Martin (32), Kemp (8). HR- Saenz (4). LOB- Los Angeles 9, Colorado 6. SB-Pierre (59). DP 3 - Furcal and Loney; Martin and Furcal; Abreu and Loney. Los Angeles in h r-er bb so era Billingsley (11-5) 5.1 4 2-2 3 6 3.15 Hendrickson 0.2 2 1-1 0 0 5.27 Proctor 1.0 1 0-0 1 0 3.56 Biemel 1.0 0 0-0 0 1 4.02 T- 2:52. Att- 23,282.

September Songs
The month of September is exciting for teams still in the race and a terrible burden for those who have been eliminated.
And some of the most exciting games in Dodgers history have come in he ninth month.

Eleven years ago Monday, Dodger pitcher Hideo Nomo fired the 20th and last no-hitter in franchise history, here at Coors Field. Nomo walked four while striking out eight and to this day owns the only no-hitter ever thrown at Coors Field in the stadium's 13-year history.

And one year ago today, Jeff Kent, J.D. Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs in the ninth inning against the Padres to erase a 9-5 deficit in a game the Dodgers would go on to win in 11 innings on Nomar Garciaparra's walk-off two-run homer. The Dodgers tied a franchise record for home runs in an inning (4) and tied a Dodger Stadium record for homers in a game (7). Kent, Drew, Martin and Anderson became just the fourth quartet in history to accomplish the feat.

And last year about this time James Loney knocked in nine runs to tie the franchise record set by Gil Hodges while playing for Brooklyn. Loney had a pair of homers, including a grand slam, in the 19-11 win in Coors Field.

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