Rockies-Dodgers Preview

The Associated Press

The Los Angeles Dodgers have one more game before heading to the postseason.

Todd Helton has one more before calling it a career.

Helton takes his final at-bats Sunday for the Colorado Rockies, who look to send the Dodgers into the postseason with a fourth loss in five games.

Los Angeles (92-69) knows it'll be on the road for Game 1 of the NL division series Thursday, so it may have little motivation heading into the regular-season finale.

That shouldn't be a problem for Colorado (73-88), which surely would like to send Helton into retirement on a winning note.

Helton is ending a 17-year career, during which he's been the face of the franchise. The 40-year-old first baseman holds virtually every offensive record for the Rockies after being drafted eighth overall out of Tennessee in 1995.

"He's been a great player," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told the Rockies' official website. "Facing him from this side is not fun because he's a tough out. It seems like the bigger the situation, the better Todd is. We wish him a lot of success. I know he's meant a lot to that franchise."

Helton went hitless in four at-bats in Saturday's 1-0 win and is 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in the first two games of this series.

The five-time All-Star will face scheduled starter Hyun-Jin Ryu (14-7, 2.97 ERA) for the first time.

Ryu has a viable chance at the NL Rookie of the Year award, but he may need a little help from the lineup if he's going to make one more strong case in the finale.

He's compiled a 2.30 ERA over his last four starts, during which he missed one with a back injury. However, he's split four decisions in that stretch since he's been backed by one total run in those defeats.

The left-hander didn't need very much help Tuesday, yielding one run in seven innings of a 2-1 win at San Francisco.

The Dodgers are still deciding if Ryu will be a member of the postseason rotation.

"We haven't made any decision on who it's going to be, but I've always been comfortable with Hyun-Jin, the way he pitches," Mattingly said.

Ryu had a season-high 12 strikeouts and allowed two runs in six innings of a 6-2 win in his only start against the Rockies on April 30.

Colorado is expected to counter Ryu with Jeff Francis (2-5, 6.61), who could be making his final appearance in a Rockies uniform.

The left-hander is getting the nod in place of an injured Tyler Chatwood (elbow).

Eight of Francis' nine seasons have been with Colorado, and his 63 wins rank second in franchise history.

"He's done so much for this organization, for this franchise, over the course of his career," manager Walt Weiss said. "I felt this was the right thing to do."

Francis' last start was an 8-3 loss at Toronto on June 18, allowing eight runs in six innings. He's given up 10 in 13 1-3 innings over 11 relief appearances since.

Francis is 1-3 with a 6.14 ERA in his past seven games - six starts - versus the Dodgers.

Michael Cuddyer leads the NL with a .333 average, and appears on his way to becoming the sixth Rockies batting champion, joining Helton, Andres Galarraga, Larry Walker, Matt Holliday and Carlos Gonzalez.