Dodgers 4, Rockies 2, 11 innings
Ross, who came to the plate batting just .169, hit a two-out, two-run homer in the 11th inning and the Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 4-2 to clinch no worse than a tie for a playoff berth.
“It feels good, really good, for me to get a big hit and help the club,” Ross said. “I’ve been working hard. It finally paid off. I haven’t helped the team offensively all year and I finally did tonight.”
Ross hit a 2-1 pitch from Steve Reed that bounced off the top of the left field wall and went over after Alex Cora was hit by a pitch from Brian Fuentes (2-4). It was Ross’ first at-bat of the game, fifth homer of the year and first since Aug. 11.
“He was due,” Dodgers closer Eric Gagne said with a smile. “He knows how to hit and we all know that. He kept working hard. He’s a hero today—he deserves it. It couldn’t happen to a better guy. And by the way, I called it.”
Said Ross, grinning: “I’m glad he has confidence in me.”
The Dodgers, who had rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the 10th inning, mobbed Ross at the plate and the sellout crowd of 53,438 stood and cheered for several minutes. The cheers got louder when Ross came out of the dugout to acknowledge the fans.
“It was a great feeling, seeing all those guys at home plate,” Ross said. “He hung me a slider and I got enough of it.”
Said Reed: “I didn’t think it was right down the middle or a hanger. Obviously, I caught too much of the plate with it. He just hit it and beat me. It’s frustrating, after we hung in the game like that.”
Los Angeles (92-67) leads San Francisco (89-70) by three games in the NL West entering a season-ending, three-game series between the teams at Dodger Stadium starting Friday night. The Giants need a sweep to force either a one-game playoff, which would be played Monday in San Francisco, or win the division based on a 10-9 season record against Los Angeles if Houston loses at least once.
“I want them to see us clinch,” Gagne said of the Giants. “The good thing is that they’re going to see us clinch against them. It’s going to be amazing and a lot of fun—especially for the fans, they’ll be able to see us do it against the hated Giants.”
That set the stage for Ross, who entered the game as a defensive replacement at catcher in the 10th.
“I couldn’t be happier for that young man because of the hard work that he puts in and the effort that he gives,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “It’s just terrific.”
Colorado took a 2-1 lead in the 10th on Jeromy Burnitz’s two-out, RBI single off Gagne, who was pitching one day after receiving a cortisone injection for stiffness in his pitching shoulder. Gagne, who muttered to himself as he walked off the mound, is 7-3 with 45 saves in 47 chances.
Los Angeles tied it against Jason Jennings in the seventh when Shawn Green doubled, took third on a single by Robin Ventura and scored on Alex Cora’s grounder to second. Jennings retired Izturis on a fly to right with runners at second and third to end the inning.
Pitching on his 32nd birthday, Lima allowed eight hits in seven innings. He is 9-1 with a 3.08 ERA at Dodger Stadium this season.
“There’s just some magic here in this clubhouse,” Lima said. “This is a special group. The way that we’re doing it, it’s like we don’t want to give up. This is probably the best birthday gift of my whole career because we won and I helped the team. I brought my `A’ game today, I came to pitch.”
Lima said he kissed Ross on the forehead before the 27-year-old catcher hit the game-winning homer.
Jennings gave up seven hits in eight innings, striking out six.
When Colorado’s Todd Helton hit an RBI double Wednesday night, it enabled him to become the first big leaguer to hit at least .315 with 25 homers and 95 RBIs in each of his first seven full seasons. He went 3-for-3 with two walks Thursday night, raising his batting average to .348. He has 32 homers and 95 RBIs. … Colorado starters allowed one earned run in 25 1-3 innings after Beltre’s grand slam off Shawn Estes in the third inning Monday night. … The comeback win was the Dodgers’ 52nd of the season, tying the franchise record set in 1953 when the team played in Brooklyn.