LOS ANGELES (AP)—The Colorado Rockies remember the bitter disappointment they felt last year when the Dodgers beat them at Chavez Ravine on the next-to-last day of the regular season to wrestle the NL West title away from them.
That won’t happen this time around, not with Los Angeles in fourth place and 11 games out under retiring manager Joe Torre.
Troy Tulowitzki(notes) hit a two-run shot Friday night for his 12th homer in September, powering Ubaldo Jimenez(notes) to his 19th victory and leading the surging Rockies to a 7-5 victory just hours after Torre said he would step down at the end of the season.
The Rockies, still vying for their first division title in the franchise’s 18-year history, have 15 games left—including a three-game set against the Giants at Coors Field on the next-to-last weekend of the regular season.
“The bottom line now is that it’s a 15-game season,” manager Jim Tracy said. “It’s all in front of us. We don’t have to look behind us. All we have to do is keep staring straight ahead and doing what we have to do. I don’t think any win is any bigger than any others. Every game is big at this point in time with three teams involved.”
Last season, the Rockies entered September six games out of first place with a 72-59 record before going on a 20-9 surge that put them within one game of the front-running Dodgers with two games left. But a 5-0 loss to Clayton Kershaw(notes) forced Colorado to settle for a wild-card berth.
Jimenez (19-6) tied Roy Halladay(notes) and CC Sabathia(notes) for the major league lead in wins as Colorado closed within 1 1/2 games of NL West-leading San Francisco, which lost 3-0 to Milwaukee. They also trail San Diego by a full game.
“I love our chances. We’ve been here before, and we’re starting to smell it,” Tulowitzki said. “We’re playing very meaningful games down the stretch. We dug ourselves a hole early in the season, but we always climb out of it. And we got a huge win on the road tonight.”
Torre ended weeks of speculation about his status for next season prior to the game, announcing he would end his three-year stint with the Dodgers. His replacement will be hitting coach Don Mattingly, whom the 70-year-old Torre had as his bench coach in New York before bringing him out west after 12 seasons as Yankees manager.
“Baseball has been my life, and hopefully will continue to be my life in some capacity,” Torre said. “When I came out here, it was just to find out if managing can be fun again, and it’s been fun. … But you have to make some decisions by instinct, and my instinct tells me it’s time to go.”
Jimenez allowed four runs and six hits over 6 1-3 innings. The right-hander was 1-4 in his previous seven starts.
“We took Ubaldo as far as we could take him, because nothing was easy for him,” Tracy said. “They just kept chipping away at him and he had a lot of traffic that he had to deal with.”
Jimenez, the first Rockies pitcher with more than 17 victories in a season, has three more starts in his attempt to become the first Dominican-born 20-game winner since Bartolo Colon(notes) won 21 with the Angels in 2005.
“Just to be mentioned in that category would be really big,” Jimenez said. “When the season is over, maybe I’ll have time to think about what I’ve done. But right now I don’t worry about whether I win 19 or 20. I’m just trying to be out there for my team and I’m just happy every time the team wins.”
Colorado reliever Matt Belisle(notes) was brought in to face Casey Blake(notes) with the bases loaded in the seventh and struck him out before retiring Matt Kemp(notes) on a groundout to preserve a 7-4 lead. Huston Street(notes), the fifth Rockies pitcher, got three outs for his 20th save in 23 chances despite giving up an RBI single to Blake.
Tracy said he had no reservations about giving Belisle a rematch with Blake, who hit a grand slam against him on Aug. 27 in the Dodgers’ 6-2 win over Jimenez.
“We made it a little bit more interesting than you’d like to see,” Tracy said. “I think it’s safe to say that the two outs Matt Belisle recorded in the seventh were the two biggest outs of our season thus far—getting Casey Blake and Matt Kemp.”
The Dodgers were trying to improve to 3-0 against Jimenez this season, but Tulowitzki put them in a hole with his 24th homer after Eric Young(notes) reached on an error by shortstop Rafael Furcal(notes) to begin the game. Tulowitzki is batting .377 over his last 15 games with 29 RBIs.
“I couldn’t have picked a better time,” Tulowitzki said of his streak. “A lot of people talk about how I started the season, and I wish I got off to a decent start. But I know I’m going to finish strong, and that’s when the team needs you most.”
The Rockies broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth with consecutive RBI singles by Melvin Mora(notes), Seth Smith(notes) and Miguel Olivo(notes). They tacked on two more in the seventh on RBI singles by Helton and Mora against former closer Jonathan Broxton(notes).
NOTES: Torre and Mattingly both acknowledged the standing ovation they received from the crowd of 38,449 after the third inning. … Jimenez has given up only eight homers this season, the fewest by any of the 29 NL pitchers who have made at least 29 starts. He has allowed an average of 0.51 homers per nine innings since giving up Barry Bonds 762nd and final homer on Sept. 5, 2007. … Kemp struck out in the sixth inning, breaking the single-season Dodgers franchise record of 153 that he set in 2008.