Rockies close gap on Dodgers
LOS ANGELES – A day after the Colorado Rockies clinched at least a wild-card spot, Ubaldo Jimenez gave them a chance to win the NL West.
Jimenez struck out 10 over six innings, leading the streaking Rockies to a 4-3 victory Friday night over the division-leading Los Angeles Dodgers.
With both teams already assured playoff slots, the Rockies cut the Dodgers’ lead to one game. Colorado needs to sweep the three-game series to win the first division title in the franchise’s 17-year history.
Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to start Saturday for Los Angeles against Jorge De La Rosa.
“Nobody’s tight. This is baseball. You have good weeks and bad weeks,” said Dodgers slugger Manny Ramirez, who matched a career high by striking out all four times up. “It’s not finished until the end. We don’t think about the championship. We’re thinking about tomorrow and De La Rosa.”
The Rockies are trying to become the first team in major league history to finish in first place after trailing by more than 15 games. They won five straight while the Dodgers have lost a season-worst five in a row.
The victory was only the fourth by Colorado in 16 meetings this season with Los Angeles.
“There’s been a lot made of the fact that we were 3-12 against them coming in, but that’s not even part of our thought process,” said Rockies manager Jim Tracy, who guided the Dodgers to a division title in 2004. “The first two months of the season, they beat us up, but they’re not beating us up now. We still have a chance to win the division.”
Troy Tulowitzki hit a two-run homer and Yorvit Torrealba had a two-run double for the Rockies.
Jimenez (15-12) allowed one run and two hits, and matched a season high for strikeouts. The right-hander lowered his ERA to 3.51, the best by a starting pitcher in franchise history.
Huston Street, the fifth Rockies pitcher, got four outs for his 35th save in 37 chances.
Ramirez fanned in the seventh inning with two runners on base. It was the fifth time in his career that he had four strikeouts in a game and the first time since Aug. 18, 2007, with Boston against the Angels.
“It’s definitely a concern,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. “He just doesn’t look comfortable up there. We obviously need him. We keep supporting him and expecting him to do good things, He’s been down this road before, and slumps are part of the game. The only thing I can do is write his name in there, pat him on the back and expect better things to happen. And that day will come for us.”
Dodgers third baseman Casey Blake also struck out all four times up after missing the previous eight games because of a left hamstring strain.
“It’s unfortunate, but I don’t think anyone’s worried too much,” Blake said. “We’re frustrated, but we’ve got a couple of games left before this thing’s over. It’s kind of brutal the way it’s going down. But whether we win the division or not, we’re going to the playoffs and that’s what it’s all about.”
Randy Wolf (11-7) gave up two runs and five hits over five innings. He was 6-0 with a 2.45 ERA in his previous nine outings.
Wolf needed 20 minutes and 37 pitches to get out of the first inning. He gave up a two-out, two-run double by Torrealba that struck the wall in right-center on the fly.
Jimenez didn’t do much to pick up the pace, as he walked three of his first four batters in the third before throwing a wild pitch to Ramirez that allowed Orlando Hudson to score the Dodgers’ first run. But Ramirez and Matt Kemp both struck out, stranding two runners in scoring position.
Tulowitzki greeted Ronald Belisario with his 32nd homer on an 0-2 pitch to give Colorado a 4-1 lead. Tulowitzki connected after Todd Helton led off the seventh with a double against Scott Elbert.
The Dodgers scored twice in the seventh on Russell Martin’s leadoff homer against Matt Daley and an RBI single by Andre Ethier against former Dodgers reliever Joe Beimel, narrowing the gap to 4-3.
NOTES: Dodgers RHP Hiroki Kuroda had an MRI exam that revealed a herniation in his cervical spine, so he is unavailable for the division series. He already has sat out two months with an oblique strain and another three weeks after he was struck by a line drive. … Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda was honored before the game to commemorate his 60 years in the Dodgers’ organization as a player, scout, minor league manager, coach and manager. Fifteen of his players took part in a ceremony on the pitcher’s mound, and knuckleballer Charlie Hough threw out a ceremonial first pitch “in relief” of the 82-year-old Lasorda.