DENVER -- A long winning streak would vault the Los Angeles Dodgers back into the National League West race. But realistically, manager Don Mattingly said, they must focus on winning series and "nudge" their way back into contention.
The Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 7-5 in 10 innings on Friday night in the opener of three-game series but not without a few anxious moments.
Pinch-hitter Todd Helton, who will be 40 in August, tied the score with a two-run homer in the ninth off closer Brandon League, winning an 11-pitch confrontation with the Dodgers' closer during an at-bat that was vintage Helton. With one out and a runner on second, he fouled off three straight 2-2 pitches before driving League's 11th straight sinker into the second deck in right field.
It was Helton's fourth homer of the season and second as a pinch hitter.
"It'd be easy to lay down there, but the boys kind of bounced back up," Mattingly said.
And they did it against Rockies closer Rafael Betancourt.
Ramon Hernandez, starting in place of injured catcher A.J. Ellis and batting fourth for the first time this season, led off with a single. Carl Crawford ran for him and, going on a 3-2 pitch, dashed to third on Skip Schumaker's one-out single.
Luis Cruz lined a ball off Betancourt that resulted in a painful, run-scoring play. Betancourt threw out Cruz at first, but Crawford scored. Juan Uribe followed with a run-scoring single to make it 7-5.
The loss was the sixth in seven games and third straight at home for the Rockies, who began the season 13-4 and are now 28-27. Three of the six losses have been in extra innings, and the six defeats include two one-run losses and two by two runs.
"We've played a lot of tight games lately," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "We've played well. But sometimes the reward for playing tight games is getting punched in the gut."
Dodgers' reliever Ronald Belisario got all three batters he faced in the bottom of the 10th to finish the victory.
The Dodgers seemed to have the game in hand, as they took a 5-0 lead in the fourth with ace Clayton Kershaw on the mound, even though he wasn't at jhis best. Mattingly sent Kershaw out for the eighth inning with the Dodgers ahead 5-2 but said he probably should have gone to the bullpen at that point.
"I was glad to get through seven tonight. ... I didn't have a whole lot tonight," Kershaw said. "Fastball wasn't very good. Curveball wasn't great. Just had to fight my way through it."
Kershaw gave way to Kenley Jansen after yielding singles to Dexter Fowler and Troy Tulowitzki to start the eighth, putting runners on first and third. Jansen hit Michael Cuddyer with a 1-2 pitch to load the bases but got Wilin Rosario to ground into a double play and Jordan Pacheco to ground out.
Kershaw held the Rockies hitless until Fowler singled with one out in the fourth. Tulowitzki followed with an infield hit. Cuddyer singled home a run, and Rosario made it 5-2 with a broken-bat grounder to third base.
Kershaw has not done well at Coors Field, going 3-3 with a 5.91 ERA in 10 previous starts there. But Rockies starter Jon Garland was dealing with more immediate bad history; he had lost four straight starts with a 6.86 ERA.
Garland, who pitched five innings for the fifth time in six starts, hit Cruz with a pitch to open the third. He scored on a double by Uribe, and after Kershaw's sacrifice, Mark Ellis singled Uribe home. Garland issued a costly walk to Andre Ethier, giving Adrian Gonzalez a chance to bat, and he singled home a run.
Scott Van Slyke led off the fourth with a double. Uribe was intentionally walked with two out to get to Kershaw, who lined a double to center. Kershaw had two doubles and 10 RBIs in 287 career at-bats entering the game.
The hits Garland gave up in the third came on ground balls. Asked if he felt unlucky, Garland, whose ERA is 5.81, said, "Right now, I feel I'm just bad, to be honest with you."
The Dodgers went 10-17 in May for the lowest winning percentage (.370) in that month since moving to Los Angeles in 1958. The team rebounded to go 10-9 after losing their first eight games of the month.
Center fielder Matt Kemp and shortstop Hanley Ramirez are on the disabled list.
"We're showing fight and we're battling," Mattingly said. "We're hanging in there. We got to keep treading water, keep ourselves in this race and knowing that there's a ton of baseball left."
NOTES: Rockies LF Carlos Gonzalez was given a planned day off but pinch-hit in the seventh and struck out. Weiss said, "He's been playing well, but he's been grinding for a long time, so this was a day for him." Gonzalez had started every game dating from April 29. His last complete day off was April 14 at San Diego. Gonzalez played the first game of a doubleheader on April 23 against Atlanta. ... Rookie 3B Nolan Arenado entered the game hitting .226 and had three hits in his previous 21 at-bats. But Weiss had him in the lineup against Kershaw for Arenado's defense with sinker-ball pitcher Garland starting...The Dodgers selected the contract of RHP Peter Moylan from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned RHP Javy Guerra there. To make room on the 40-man roster, LHP Scott Elbert (left elbow surgery) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. ... Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez (left hamstring strain) was scheduled to begin a rehab assignment on Friday night with high-Class A Rancho Cucamonga...Mattingly said center field is "day to day" after Kemp was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a mild right hamstring strain. Schumaker made his third start of the season in center on Friday after Andre Ethier started there Thursday. ... The Dodgers could call up a center fielder if they decide to put C A.J. Ellis (left oblique) on the 15-day disabled list. He last played Wednesday. Ellis can catch but cannot swing a bat. He had a similar oblique strain at the start of spring training and was able to play in three days, and the Dodgers want to see if he responds again in that amount of time before making a decision to put him on the disabled list. ... Garland ended up allowing five earned runs and not two on Sunday because of a scoring change in his last start at San Francisco.