Tulowitzki homers as Rockies eliminate Dodgers with 9-7 victory
LOS ANGELES (AP)—Troy Tulowitzki made sure the Colorado Rockies kept pace in the NL wild-card race. Eliminating the Los Angeles Dodgers from postseason contention in front of their own fans was just a bonus.
Tulowitzki homered to drive in the tying and go-ahead runs, Todd Helton had a pair of RBI singles and the Rockies beat Los Angeles 9-7 Tuesday night for their ninth straight victory—tying the franchise record.
“Everyone’s just having fun, playing hard, guys are coming up with big hits in big situations and we’re just letting it all hang out,” said MVP candidate Matt Holliday, who was 2-for-4 after missing two games with a slightly strained left oblique muscle. “I’m going to be out there the rest of the way and see what happens.”
Last week at Coors Field, Helton and Brad Hawpe hit dramatic late-inning home runs that turned potential losses into one-run wins on consecutive days during a four-game sweep of the Dodgers that effectively ended their postseason hopes.
“When we came out of that series over in Colorado, that took every bit of the air out of our balloon that was possibly in there,” manager Grady Little said. “It’s tough for everyone to swallow. We feel terrible about it. We feel worse than anyone. There’s a lot going through my mind. It’s been a long year, but I’m proud of the boys for putting together the season they did to get this deep—facing all the adversity we faced this year.”
Colorado remained one game behind San Diego in the wild-card race, tied with Philadelphia with five games to play. They are a season-high 13 games over .500 (85-72), while Los Angeles lost for the eighth time in nine games.
Mark Hendrickson (4-8) relieved Brad Penny after five innings, and gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs and a two-out homer by Tulowitzki that put the Rockies back in front 6-5. Tulowitzki’s 23 homers are the second-most by a rookie shortstop, seven fewer than current Dodger Nomar Garciaparra had in 1997 with Boston.
“I didn’t know what to expect this year,” Tulowitzki said. “I struggled early and I’m sure a lot of people doubted me, but I stuck with it and got better every day. It just goes to show you what hard work will do.”
Helton’s second RBI single increased Colorado’s lead to 7-5 in the eighth. LaRoche got the run back in the bottom half with an RBI single, but the rally fizzled when center fielder Cory Sullivan made a sliding catch to rob Matt Kemp of a bloop single with the bases loaded.
“We have so many moving parts on this team that any guy could step in at any point and do something,” said Spilborghs, who doubled home a run in the ninth. “That’s obviously why we’ve been winning a lot and why we’ve been on this hot streak.”
Jimenez was lifted with a 5-4 deficit after giving up four straight hits with none out in the fifth, including a three-run homer to right-center by James Loney after Juan Pierre and Kemp opened the inning with infield singles.
“I didn’t even know that we were mathematically out, so that’s news to me,” Pierre said. “The schedule and the contract says 162 (games), so you’ve got to play hard no matter what—and we did. Hopefully next year we’ll be 15 games up right about now, not trying to scrape to get in it.”
Jeff Kent chased Jimenez with a ground-rule double, but was thrown out at the plate by Sullivan as he tried to score on Andre Ethier’s flyball. Kent bruised his left leg in the collision with Yorvit Torrealba, and was replaced at second base by Wilson Valdez.
Colorado went ahead 4-2 in the top of the inning on Helton’s RBI single and a fielder’s choice grounder by Hawpe.
Los Angeles tied it 2-all in the fourth when Chin-Lung Hu, the Dodgers’ minor league player of the year, followed a two-out single by LaRoche with a first-pitch homer into the left field pavilion. The 23-year-old infielder was making his second start at shortstop while Rafael Furcal missed his seventh straight game with a sore lower back.
The Rockies opened the scoring in the third with an RBI single to left by Kaz Matsui, who ended up circling the bases on the play. Ethier missed the cutoff man on his attempted relay to the plate and catcher Russell Martin intercepted the throw halfway to the mound. His subsequent peg to second base glanced off Matsui—who never broke stride after scrambling to his feet.
The Rockies, who finished with a worse record than the Dodgers in each of their first 14 seasons, need one more victory to end that streak. … Penny set a new career high for innings pitched with 208. The eight-year veteran had 205 with the Florida Marlins in 2001. … Delwyn Young hit his first career home run in the ninth for the Dodgers.