Dodgers can't slow down surging Rockies

Dodgers can't slow down surging Rockies

LOS ANGELES -- As the Rockies play for October, the Dodgers play for next year.

In their meeting on Saturday, Troy Tulowitzki continued his September rampage with a pair of homers, and Melvin Mora slugged a grand slam in a 12-2 rout, as the Rockies ran their win streak to three.

The Dodgers have lost their past four -- 11 of their past 14 -- and can be eliminated from any chance of a postseason berth as soon as Sunday. They are five games below .500 for the first time since May 4.

Colorado is in the midst of another remarkable stretch run, but the Dodgers, with Don Mattingly declared the incoming manager, are reduced to providing a small group of young players an opportunity to make an impression and maybe win a job for 2011.

Saturday's results in that regard were mixed. Starting pitcher John Ely, filling in for the injured Vicente Padilla, was roughed up again, charged with six runs and five walks in 4 1/3 innings. Ely has won only once in his past 11 Major League starts.

But utilityman Russell Mitchell started at third base and slugged his second home run in three games, while backup catcher A.J. Ellis had his second straight three-hit game.

Outgoing manager Joe Torre noted that early in the year, when Ely was a surprise promotion after a month at Triple-A, he faced 89 consecutive batters without a walk. Ely also pitched his first 50 1/3 innings without allowing a home run.

Now this.

"It's a sign of not being as proud of his stuff as he was earlier," said Torre. "He was a lot more aggressive. Today, he had a very defensive approach. He has to get back to being that aggressive guy, throwing 85 or 95 [mph], if he wants to make an impression next spring."

Ely didn't disagree, and was especially ticked for allowing the home runs to Tulowitzki, who has four homers in his past three games, 11 in his past 10 and 14 in September, a Rockies record for any month.

"You can't hit the ball any harder than he's doing it, you can't do it," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "Those look like two-irons going out of here."

Tulowitzki tied Barry Bonds and Albert Belle as the only Major Leaguers with 14 homers in a 15-game span. His four RBIs on Saturday gave him 33 this month, which leads the Majors. He also doubled and scored three runs.

"That guy is locked in," said Ely. "It's a little frustrating to watch him get that pitch [in the fifth inning] out of the park. He's the guy we're focused on to not let beat you, and he ends up doing just that. It's frustrating. He had a heck of a day off me today."

Torre praised both Ellis for his recent hard work and Mitchell for his power and versatility.

"Ellis has been working his tail off, working tirelessly with [Jeff] Pentland on his approach and shortening his swing," Torre said. "It's shorter and quicker, and that's flat-out from hard work. It's fun to watch a lifer who wants to be more than that. Defensively, there's nothing wrong with his game."

Ellis' status next year will be influenced by Russell Martin's ability to heal from a broken hip and the Dodgers' ability to sign free agent-to-be Rod Barajas. Raising his batting average from .174 to .265 won't hurt his chances.

"I'm trying to make the most of every opportunity, but as happy as I am with the offense, I'm just as disappointed with the outcome and the way we've pitched the last two days," said Ellis. "I take responsibility for that. My job is to get a pitcher through tough innings, and I haven't done a good job of that the last two days."

Mitchell has only two hits in 22 at-bats since his callup, but both were homers. Saturday's was a two-run blast that helped the Dodgers avoid their 17th shutout.

"He's the kind of player every manager looks for," said Torre. "He may not be the best hitter, but he's dangerous. He's intriguing. We had a guy with the Yankees, Clay Bellinger -- the same type of guy. I know Donnie likes him."

Mora's slam, which gave him four hits and five RBIs in the game, came off Jeff Weaver in a six-run eighth inning.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.