Rockies Prove It Won't be Easy

Los Angeles learned a thing or two during the 8-3 loss to Colorado that (again) knocked them out of a first place tie. No matter how many outstanding players they add to the roster, winning the division title isn't going to be an easy thing and that the bullpen is not staffed with supermen.

Defending National League Champion Colorado also demonstrated there are no easy opponents during the final weeks of a pennant race by rapping starter Hiroki Kuroda, Jason Johnson and Hong-Chih Kuo for eight hits and eight runs.

And, perhaps in euphoria of the acquisition of Greg Maddux, they forgot what they had learned in recent months and reverted to leaving too many men on base.

The Dodgers out-hit the Rockies 11-10. Three of them were by Jeff Kent, who despite what he claims, is benefitting from hitting in front of Ramirez because he is batting .489 since Manny was acquired. Four other hits were by Blake and Matt Kemp, who each had a pair of doubles.

Los Angeles played catchup over the first seven innings, trailing 2-0, 2-1, 4-1, 4-2 and 4-3. They left nine in scoring position and had two hits in eight at-bats with runners on second, third or both. With their final effort, they left the bases loaded in the seventh.

The Rockies served notice in the first inning that although some feel they are out of contention, there are still a number of outstanding bats in in the lineup.

Despite the fact that Todd Helton is on the 60-day disabled list, there's pretty good pop up and down the lineup as their three home runs and two doubles proved -- and the first inning was a microcosm of the game to come.

Kuroda loaded the bases with a pair of singles and a walk, then had Ian Stewart 0-2 before the Colorado outfielder finally guided a very low and very outside fastball into left field for a single and a 2-0 lead.

In the bottom of the inning, Matt Kemp spanked a double into the right field corner on a 3-2 pitch before Andre Ethier struck out on a nasty breaking ball. Ubaldo Jimenez had thrown 13 pitches at this point and there was only one out.

Jeff Kent pounded a drive to the wall in left-center, driving in Kemp and it looked like the Rockies early lead wasn't going to be nearly large enough.

Manny Ramirez hit what looked like his sixth home run in Dodger Blue but got it just a bit too far out on the end of his bat and center fielder Willie Tavares ran it down just in front of the left-center field fence and James Loney bounced easily to first base to end the inning.

Brad Hawpe homered to deep center in the third with Matt Holliday, who was 4-for-5, on base and the Rockies went up 4-3.

Los Angeles couldn't score after Nomar Garciaparra and Kuroda singled in the second, but in the fourth, with two out, Garciaparra singled again and Casey Blake launched the first of his two doubles.

A passed ball allowed one run before Kemp banged his second double to drive in Blake to cut the margin to 4-3 but with runners on second and third Ethier struck out again to end the inning.

Kuroda (7-9), who had given up one run in each of his previous three starts, retired his last nine batters before being lifted for a pinch-hitter trailing 4-3. He gave up six hits and four runs in six innings while walking one and striking out three.

Then it was the bullpen that let the Rockies slip through their fingers. Collectively, they now have given up 11 runs in the past nine innings and that failure killed any chance of a Dodgers' comeback this night.

Jimenez had only lasted five innings and in a battle of the bullpens, the Dodgers' would seem to have a decided edge. However, the Colorado bullpen allowed just three hits and no runs the rest of the game.

Kent and Ramirez singled before Loney walked in the seventh but Martin was retired on a fly ball to right field.

Colorado rammed four runs over in the eighth inning to put the game away. Holliday homered off Jason Johnson and Kuo go the call. He walked the first two he faced, then Stewart slammed a ball deep into the right-center field seats, knocking in his fifth run of the game, and suddenly the Rockies had a four run lead.

Stewart, a left-handed hitter, is 14-for-33 against left-handers this year, and five of his last 12 hits have been homers. Overall, he's hitting .293 with nine homers and 37 RBIs in 47 games after being sent back to the minors earlier to re-adjust his swing. He ranks second in the NL in on-base percentage since being recalled from Colorado Springs on July 19.

The final six Dodgers went quietly into the not-so good night and the Rockies had their fourth straight win and the Dodgers slipped back into second place with a 64-61 record after Arizona nudged San Diego 7-6.

"They're obviously better than their record indicates," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "They have that middle lineup that we have trouble getting through. Those guys have beaten us up a little bit -— and looking at Holliday's numbers, he's beaten a few people up. And Hawpe, too. I mean, we're capable of shutting them down, but we just weren't able to do it tonight.

"We had enough hits and some opportunities, but then the bullpen wasn't able to keep us close, which is uncharacteristic.

"Jason Johnson had a good seventh inning, but in the eighth the wheels came off. We get so spoiled, knowing what to expect with Kuo, and then when things like that happen, you're very surprised by it. I hope it's another month before we're surprised again."

Many might feel the National League West is a two-team race between Los Angeles and Arizona, but in the back of their minds they must still have the vision of the Rockies wild finish last season.

On this date in 2007, Colorado was seven games behind the Diamondbacks (they are eight now) and they put on a remarkable streak, trampling the Dodgers in the bargain, and won not only the wild card race but then went on to win the league championship.

The Dodgers will send Chad Billingsley to the mound tonight. The young right-hander is unbeaten in his last five starts, going 3-0 with a 2.34 ERA during that time.

Billingsley (12-9, 3.10 ERA), allowed the Brewers three runs on four hits in the first two innings before shutting them down on one hit over the next five innings in his last start. He's won eight of his last 10 but is 0-2 lifetime with a 6.46 ERA against the Rockies.

Colorado will counter with Dodgers-killer LHP Jeff Francis (3-8, 5.74 ERA), who is making his second start since missing time with a shoulder injury. He displayed his old velocity and command in his most recent start, when he gave up three runs over six innings of a no-decision against the D-backs.

 Score by innings
Colorado	202 000 040-8
Los Angeles	100 200 000-3

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Kemp cf	        5  1  2  1  .301
Ethier rf	5  0  0  0  .279
Kent 2b	        5  0  3  1  .283
Ramirez lf	4  0  1  0  .413
Loney 1b	3  0  0  0  .290
Martin c	4  0  0  0  .289
Garciaparra ss	4  1  2  0  .269
Blake 3b	4  1  2  0  .284
Kuroda p	1  0  1  0  .100
 Sweeney ph	1  0  0  0  .122
 Johnson p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Kuo p	        0  0  0  0  .273
 Sturtze p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Pierre ph	1  0  0  0  .277
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
  Totals	37 3 11 2
  Colorado	35 8 10 8

 Two-base hits- Kemp 2 (32), Kent (23).
Blake 2 (9). RBI- Kent (56), Kemp (64). 
LOB- Los Angeles 9, Colorado 6. DP- Blake 
and Loney.

 Los Angeles	in  h  r-er bb so  era
Kuroda (7-9)	6.0  6  4-4  1  3  3.97
Johnson	        1.0  1  1-1  0  1  3.04
Kuo	        0.0  1  3-3  2  0  2.26
Sturtze	        1.0  1  0-0  0  0  0.00
Troncoso	1.0  1  0-0  1  0  4.10
 HBP- by Kuroda. T- 3:20. Att- 46,687.
Dodger Blue Notes-- The loss to Colorado was the first game in the Dodgers' last 10 games that was not decided by one or two runs. ...The game drew 46,687 fans, boosting the season total at Dodger Stadium to 3,038,674, the 13th straight year the Dodgers have drawn over 3 million fans at home. ...The Rockies (19-12) and the Dodgers (18-12) have been two of the NL's better teams since the All-Star break. ...Kent's first-inning double was the 560th of his career, tying him with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray for 20th on the all-time list. ...After their three-game series with the Rockies concludes Thursday, the Dodgers will have an NL-high 23 road games remaining on their schedule along with only 12 home games. ...Tanyon Sturtze worked a scoreless inning for the Dodgers—his first appearance in a big-league game since May 13, 2006, when he was pitching for the Yankees. He has lost most of one season and all of the next to right shoulder surgery. He went to spring training with the Dodgers in 2004, then was sen to Las Vegas and traded to the Yankees on May 15 for the outfielder Brian Myrow. ...Andruw Jones, disabled because of a knee injury, hit two solo home runs on Monday for Las Vegas but didn't play in last night's game. Torre said it's too early to get excited about that because "he needs to have enough quality at-bats to make him feel like it's different." ...Juan Pierre is 13-for-27 (.481) in his career against Francis, while Andre Ethier is just 4-for-17 (.235) against the left-hander. ...In Manny Ramirez's first 16 games with the Dodgers, he recorded 25 hits, six home runs and 21 RBIs. Since 1925, only Cubs outfielder Mandy Brooks has reached those totals in each of the categories in his first 16 games with a new team. ...The Dodgers will host a steroid awareness clinic for young athletes today at Dodger Stadium. Clayton Kershaw, Pierre and Gary Bennett will work as instructors with the Dodgers training staff and strength and conditioning coach. ... James Loney and Danny Ardoin will visit patients at White Memorial Medical Center in the Pediatric Unit today.

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