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Loney ensures extras end early

Loney ensures extras end early

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LOS ANGELES -- It's always too early to worry in April, players will say until they don't want to say it anymore. However, they'll never say it's too early to start feeling better about themselves before the month is over.

Such was the state of the Dodgers on Sunday. They completed a three-game sweep over the Rockies with a 3-2 victory in 10 innings before 50,670 at Dodger Stadium, riding James Loney's rolling ground-ball base hit into right field to its first three-game winning streak of the season and to within one game of the .500 mark.

So as the Dodgers [12-13] prepared for a six-game road trip to Florida and Colorado following an off-day on Monday, the team spoke of a calm, collective feeling that turned a game in which it left 10 runners on base into an effort it was proud of.

"These close games are character-building wins," manager Joe Torre said. "They'll certainly help build your confidence."

The Dodgers played like, well, a Torre team. And after a month with L.A.'s resident New York transplant, the Dodgers can see his fingerprints all over the diamond. They saw it again on Sunday.

Loney, relaxed in part by a private pick-me-up talk Torre provided a few days ago, put aside the double play he grounded into in the eighth inning that effectively killed a Dodger threat. Loney waited for erratic Rockies reliever Manuel Corpas [0-2] to leave a fastball where he didn't want to leave it.

Loney effortlessly poked the ball through the right side, scoring Rafael Furcal, who had led off the inning with a walk.

"It's a fine line," Loney explained. "I've done that, too. When you're up there and think you have to do it all at once, sometimes you just have to be patient."

As Furcal scored standing, the Dodgers seemed to finally feel like they had picked themselves up.

Dodger starting pitcher Esteban Loaiza got a no-decision, but pitched [and hit] like he wanted to keep the No. 5 slot in the rotation. He allowed two runs and five hits in five innings, began the game with four scoreless innings, and delivered an RBI single to spark a two-run fourth inning that gave the Dodgers the lead.

Before his at-bat, there was Torre, who managed him in New York in 2004 and asked him to simply put the bat on the ball. Torre gave him a pat on the back without saying a word, leaving him in the game to hit for himself.

"And when I got to first base," Loaiza said, "He pointed at me like I was a real hitter."

Loaiza pitched well enough to earn consideration to start again when the rotation spot comes up next Saturday in Colorado. He threw 70 pitches [44 strikes] and thought he could have stretched it out a tad longer if needed to, even though he hadn't made a start since April 7.

The Rockies tied the score in the fifth inning on an RBI double from Willy Tavares and an RBI single from Todd Helton, but Loaiza did enough to keep the Dodgers close.

"He put us in a position to do what we were able to do today," Torre said.

That's not a bad vote of confidence for a guy who entered the game with a 4.32 ERA and handed the ball off to four relievers who combined to pitch five scoreless innings and scatter four hits.

Joe Beimel [1-0] got the win, pitching around runners at second and third in the 10th inning by getting Troy Tulowitzki to ground out and Jeff Baker to pop up to Loney in first-base foul territory.

The victory softened the fact that the Dodgers couldn't find ways to win many times before. Andruw Jones is now three for his last 27 [.111] after an 0-for-4 performance that included flying out with the bases loaded to end the first inning and striking out with the tying run at third base to end the eighth inning. Jones struck out three times. His batting average fell to .159 this season. He was booed loudly after each strikeout.

"If you're not doing good, fans have the right to boo you," Jones said. "If you [stink], you [stink]. You just have to go out, keep grinding and stay positive."

The Dodgers are learning to win without Jones producing, something they probably can't afford to do in the long haul, but felt relieved to find contributions from all over: rookie third baseman Blake DeWitt chugged out his first Major League triple and scored on Loaiza's single in the fourth. Mark Sweeney came off the bench and drew a walk in the 10th inning and Matt Kemp laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Furcal to third before he scored the game-winning run. The Dodgers dodged bullets in the final three innings, but didn't have to sweat them when the game was over.

"We feel a heck of a lot better," catcher Russell Martin said, shortly before glancing over his shoulder to peek into his locker and realize he doesn't remember where he left his third base glove. Sometimes, a minor tweak takes on major proportions, even if it only is April.

John Klima is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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