Dodgers 4, Rockies 3

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—On a team saturated with impressive rookies, Kenny Lofton has become an inspiration on and off the field for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lofton singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth inning and the Dodgers moved into first place in the NL West, defeating the Colorado Rockies 4-3 Thursday night.

“He’s been around long enough to know how to play the game and he’s been on teams that have won, so it’s nice to have him,” Dodgers reliever Brett Tomko said. “He’s usually the guy who gets traded for the stretch run. He knows what he needs to do to help the team, whatever it is.”

The Dodgers, whose 11-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss Wednesday night, are a half-game ahead of San Diego and Arizona.

This is the first time the Dodgers have had sole possession of first place since June 26. They were as many as 7 1/2 games off the pace on July 26 after losing 13 of 14 games following the All-Star break.

Jose Mesa (0-5) gave up a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Julio Lugo and a single to Rafael Furcal before Lofton sliced a 2-0 pitch to left field for the game-winner. Takashi Saito (4-2) got the victory despite giving up the tying run in the ninth.

Dodgers rookie Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 14 games with a tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth inning against Ray King, after Colorado manager Clint Hurdle brought in the left-hander to replace impressive rookie reliever Manny Corpas.

“We had that inning drawn up as soon as the inning started,” Hurdle said. “We were get let Corpas pitch to (Jeff) Kent and have King come in to face Ethier. Ethier hadn’t hit a home run all year off a left-hander, and King hadn’t given up one to a lefty all year. Obviously, it didn’t work—and it didn’t work in the ninth, either.”

Kings acknowledged that he made the wrong pitch.

“Tonight was a lesson I learned,” King said. “I looked at tape of him, and he’s a kid who’s diving the whole time, so I threw a fastball away and he beat me. So from now on, no matter how many more times I face him, he’s going to have to beat me on a pitch in.”

The Rockies made it 3-all in the ninth when Todd Helton tripled over the head of right fielder Jason Repko and continued home when Kent’s throw to third skipped into the dugout for an error. The blown save was the first in 13 opportunities for Saito, who replaced the injured Eric Gagne as closer.

For the second time in this four-game series, a Rockies pitcher was ejected after Hurdle removed him from the game. King, who was upset about a previous pitch to Wilson Betemit, held both arms out to the side—before and after Huddle made the pitching change—and was tossed by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. On Monday night, Sam Holbrook ejected Josh Fogg under the same circumstances.

“I guess I looked at him the wrong way,” King said. “I didn’t say a word to him. Before that, I asked him, `Where was that pitch?’ and he got all bitter about it. The manager comes out and tells me, `Don’t say a word.’ I didn’t say anything and I still get tossed.”

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley allowed a run and three hits over five innings, struck out three and escaped a bases-loaded jam in the third. All of his six walks came during a span of 10 batters, but none of those baserunners scored.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Nomar Garciaparra’s sacrifice fly, but Colorado tied it in the sixth against reliever Aaron Sele with a two-out RBI double by Sullivan.

Garciaparra, who came in 4-for-20 lifetime against Colorado starter Jason Jennings, singled his first two times up. But in the seventh, he flied out to end the inning after a pair of two-out walks.

Furcal led off the Dodgers’ first with a triple and scored on Lofton’s groundout. The Rockies tied it in the second when Matt Holliday led off with a drive that struck the right-field pole. It was the 21st homer this season for the first-time All-Star, who ended an eight-game RBI drought.

Notes

With Gagne, fellow reliever Yhency Brazoban and OF Jayson Werth on the disabled list for the rest of the season, the Dodgers have only eight players on their 25-man roster who played for them last season. … Helton reached on a strikeout-wild pitch in the seventh. It was the 37th wild pitch by the Dodgers’ staff, one more than their entire total last season.

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