The Dodgers had just experienced what all the fuss is about with Jim Tracy's Rockies, who performed another miracle walk-off win Tuesday night, 5-4 in 10 innings, closing to two games behind the Dodgers, their smallest lead in four months.
"That team is reminding people of the way we played in the first half," said Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier, who had three hits. "We lost the game, rather than they beat us. Don't get me wrong, they played well. But we didn't come through when we had the chances to score. We kind of beat ourselves."
The Dodgers got 6 1/3 strong innings from Clayton Kershaw. They battled back with a pair of runs in the ninth inning, tying the game when Tracy pitched to Manny Ramirez with first base open and Ramirez had a flashback to his Dodgers glory days by delivering a clutch two-out RBI single after former Dodgers pitcher Joe Beimel struck out Ethier.
But the rested Dodgers bullpen allowed three runs over the final 3 2/3 innings without either Jonathan Broxton or George Sherrill touching the ball, the others being outpitched by Rockies relievers who supposedly were worn out from their previous night's comeback win in 14 innings.
The Dodgers' offense outhit Colorado, 12-10, with Casey Blake slugging his 16th home run (third in the past six games) but went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded a dozen. Even in the ninth inning, when the Dodgers scored two to tie, Russell Martin flied out to leave the bases loaded.
The game-winning hit was Troy Tulowitzki's, a bases-loaded liner to left-center with one out and the outfield shallow. But the decisive play was a botched sacrifice bunt. Rookie reliever James McDonald took over in the 10th and set the tone by walking the first batter, Ian Stewart. Then McDonald overran Carlos Gonzalez's sacrifice bunt.
First baseman James Loney picked up the loose ball and appeared to throw accurately to first base, but the ball sailed past second baseman Orlando Hudson and runners were at the corners. One out later, Todd Helton was walked intentionally and Tulowitzki followed with his game-winner.
Everything started to unravel soon after Torre yanked Kershaw from a 2-2 tie when his pitch count hit 104 while striking out Brad Hawpe leading off the seventh inning, the fourth consecutive batter Kershaw retired. Torre essentially said Kershaw should get used to it because management wants to protect that 21-year-old arm, which is now winless in its past seven starts, five of them no-decisions.
"That's the plan," Torre said of the pitch limit on Kershaw, roughly 100, although he's gone 112 twice this year. "He was going to be done an inning before, but I wanted him to pitch to Hawpe. He really has to stay with what he's been doing a good job with."
Kershaw said he felt fine and provided his stock answer when asked if he was frustrated being removed from games while he's pitching effectively.
"It's not my call," he said. "They don't pay me to make those decisions. They pay me to pitch and I have fun doing it. I'll throw 300 pitches if they want me to do that."
Two batters after Kershaw was pulled, Ronald Belisario allowed a tying home run to Clint Barmes. The following inning, Hong-Chih Kuo allowed three baserunners and another run. And the Dodgers battled back in the ninth, only for the Rockies to win it in the 10th.
Martin was asked if the Rockies reminded him of the Dodgers earlier this year:
"Early in the year was a long time ago," he said. "They battled, they caught a break at the end on the bunt and that's the way it goes. They got the first game of the series and we've got to put this behind us and find a way to get the next two."
The Rockies, once 15 1/2 games back, have won their past four, eight of the past nine and 18 of the past 25. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have been a .500 team since June 21.
"A lot of people have said we could win the Wild Card, but we haven't given up the division," said Colorado starter Jason Hammel, who allowed two runs in seven innings. "That's certainly not going to finish for the next 30 games. We still have a long way to go. Guys are playing hard, we're having fun. We'd like to win a couple games up by six runs, but it's definitely fun celebrating."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.