Loss knocks Rockies from playoff contention

Loss knocks Rockies from playoff contention

DENVER -- There will be no Rocktober this year.

Regardless of what happened in Atlanta, San Diego or San Francisco, as soon as shortstop Troy Tulowitzki's bat cut through the thin Denver air and the ball popped into Rod Barajas' catcher's mitt, Colorado's fate was sealed.

The Rockies' body language said it all. It seems like just yesterday players were celebrating steals of home, walk-off homers and improbable comebacks. On Tuesday night, there was no miraculous Coors Field comeback, no blaring music in the clubhouse and no high-fives at the pitcher's mound.

After the Rockies' 9-7 loss to the Dodgers, for the first time all season, much of the postgame clubhouse conversation centered on "2011" and "the offseason" -- a stark contrast from "postseason."

"That's the game of baseball and that's why it's not easy to make the playoffs," said closer Huston Street, who surrendered a ninth-inning homer and was bundled in four icepacks while nursing a side injury. "The strength of this team still exists, which is that we don't ever give up."

The Rockies certainly had their best shot at it with a bases-loaded situation in the eighth and the September Bash Brothers -- outfielder Carlos Gonzalez and Tulowitzki -- at the plate in the ninth.

But pinch-hitter Ryan Spilborghs struck out in the eighth, leaving the bases loaded and the Rockies trailing by one, before Gonzalez and Tulowitzki were retired in the ninth without the ball making it beyond the infield grass.

"They have done an awful lot," said manager Jim Tracy of the duo that could carry the Rockies only so far. "And when you get to the point where you start trying to do too much ... they're trying to do an awful lot right now."

Leave it to the Dodgers to effectively serve the Rockies their late-round TKO. Los Angeles is the only team in the division with a plus-.500 record against this Rockies (now at 10-7) and has been a thorn in Colorado's side the last two years.

Los Angeles' 7-6 comeback victory on Sept. 19 set the wheels in motion for the Rockies to lose eight of nine and, on Tuesday, the Dodgers finished the job.

"We were on a roll," Rockies starter Jeff Francis said, shaking his head. "I know you can't really point to one moment. But since then we haven't really played very good baseball as a team."

Francis has been an indicator of Colorado's recent struggles, now having dropped all three of his starts after a limited rehabilitation from shoulder soreness. Tuesday, he served up back-to-back homers in the third as part of a five-run inning. Colorado's late rally -- two-run homers from first baseman Todd Helton and center fielder Dexter Fowler in the seventh -- tied the score at 6, but Octavio Dotel surrendered two more runs and Street allowed another to widen the gap.

"When you get down in a game and you get back into the game, you can't continue to give it back to them and force your offense to keep having to come back," Tracy said.

For the first time in the last two seasons, the Rockies will take the field for a game Wednesday with zero postseason implications. Promising young rookie Jhoulys Chacin will take the mound against right-hander Carlos Monasterios, in place of the scratched Clayton Kershaw.

"He's not going to pitch," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said of his young southpaw. "That's it. We knocked them out of the Wild Card. I think he's pitched enough."

And the Rockies will turn their attention to 2011. There likely will be endless chatter about the team that could have been -- if not for serious injuries to Tulowitzki, Street and all but one of the team's starting pitchers -- and the one that soon could be.

But it'll also be just the second time in the last four years the Rockies experience a quiet October.

"It's been a tough stretch," Helton said. "What can you say? I think everybody's handled it well and showed up and is playing hard. You've gotta take the good with the bad and the bad with the good."

Joey Nowak is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.