Dodgers push West lead back to four

Dodgers push West lead back to four

DENVER -- The Dodgers had Matt Kemp homer and Vicente Padilla pitch well early, Rafael Furcal come through with a clutch RBI in the middle and the deepest bullpen in the league lock it up late.

Never mind that the Colorado Rockies had the winning runs on base in the ninth inning after Furcal's "stupid" fielding mistake. When the dust settled, the Dodgers had a 3-2 win, were an extra-inning loss away from a series sweep and had restored their National League West lead to four games by taking two of three while breaking the momentum of their hottest pursuers.

"We came in here and made a statement," said Kemp, who slugged a two-run homer in the first inning, his career-high 19th. "We haven't been playing to our potential and they had the momentum. Everybody has a moment when they play really good and everything goes your way. It happened for us in the beginning. And every team hits a bump in the road where nothing is going your way, but you have to snap out of it."

A lead that once was 9 1/2 games was whittled to two after a 10-inning loss Monday, but Kemp said you couldn't tell in the clubhouse.

"There was no panicking," said Kemp, who also doubled and singled. "Last year, maybe a little when we lost eight in a row. There's a different swagger this year. We've got the advantage."

They also might have another fifth starter. In his Dodgers debut, Padilla allowed two runs in five innings, was lifted for a pinch-hitter during the winning rally in the sixth and claimed his first National League win since 2005. He was clocked as fast as 96 mph but also has a 59-mph slow curve.

"He had good movement and kept us off balance," Colorado infielder Clint Barmes said. "That eephus curveball pitch that he's got, I don't know how he throws that over the plate, but he was getting some strikes with that. He just kept us off balance. It looks like guys were behind him or out in front on him a lot today, and we just couldn't piece anything together on him."

Contrary to the badmouthing that accompanied his divorce from the Rangers last week, he didn't hit any opponents in the head or receive any knives in the back from new teammates.

"He hung in there," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He didn't have his good sinker. I told everybody he'll get ground balls and there were nothing but fly balls the first two innings. But we need somebody to grind and he did that for five innings."

The Dodgers now are 21-12 in games started by someone other than Randy Wolf, Chad Billingsley, Clayton Kershaw and Hiroki Kuroda.

"I don't think I have to prove anything to anybody," said Padilla, making his first Major League appearance in three weeks. "I play hard, play the best baseball I can. That's what I always do. If the results don't match what I expect, what can I do? I still play hard. I don't think this was that bad, considering three weeks between starts."

In the winning rally, Orlando Hudson led off the sixth with a walk, was bunted to second by Brad Ausmus, and after pinch-hitter Mark Loretta lined out, Furcal bounced a single up the middle, breaking out of a 2-for-24 slide.

It then became a bullpen game and the Dodgers', which allowed three runs in the final 3 2/3 innings Tuesday night when neither George Sherrill nor Jonathan Broxton pitched, shut down the Rockies the final four innings.

Hong-Chih Kuo struck out the side in the sixth; Ramon Troncoso got two outs in the seventh; Sherrill, still pitching with an oblique he believes cramped because of the altitude, retired three of the four batters he faced; and Broxton delivered a four-out save, his job made tougher when Furcal missed a tag on Yorvit Torrealba going to second base that put two Rockies on with one out in the ninth. Broxton then struck out Eric Young Jr. and Seth Smith for his 28th save.

"If it wasn't for the bullpen," said Torre, "we wouldn't be talking like this."

The Rockies came into the series having scored at least three runs in 18 consecutive games and made it 19 on Tuesday night. But they scored only one run off Randy Wolf on Wednesday and the two off Padilla on Thursday. It was Colorado's first series loss at home in nearly two months and dropped its record against the Dodgers this year to 3-12.

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