'Pen can't preserve lead for Rockies

'Pen can't preserve lead for Rockies

LOS ANGELES -- As a mantra of hope, you can't beat resiliency, resiliency, resiliency. The 2007 Rockies have a knack for bouncing back, but after Sunday afternoon's loss, they'd just as soon move forward.

"We battled back today, that's a given," said Colorado manager Clint Hurdle. "You've got to close games out. You don't win 'til you win."

Ramon Martinez's two-run single off reliever Jeremy Affeldt in the eighth inning lifted the Dodgers to a 4-3 win, frustrating the Rockies' bid for a 3-3 West Coast road trip before 48,732.

Emotional whiplash was built into this one, as Todd Helton's two-run homer in the top of the eighth had given the Rockies a 3-2 lead.

Colorado reliever Jorge Julio (0-4) shouldered the loss, which left the Rockies three games out of the National League Wild Card lead.

Jeff Francis kept it close for six innings, leaving with a one-run deficit after allowing six hits, striking out seven and walking two. Ramon Ortiz got Colorado through the seventh.

"He was pretty solid," Hurdle said of Francis. "He was able to work through some things and got better as the game went along.

"This was much improved over his last outing."

Francis said he definitely was motivated by the need to go deep into the game, to alleviate at least a tiny part of the burden that has put relievers on the mound for upwards of 30 innings over the last week.

"They've picked us up," Francis said. "Right now we're not doing our jobs as starters to go deep into games."

The 2-4 trip's what-if factor focused on the third games of both the San Diego and Los Angeles series; a big inning snuffed out Elmer Dessens' outing against the Padres on Thursday, and Sunday's heartbreaker was what it was.

Scott Proctor (2-0) got the win in relief of Brad Penny and Joe Beimel, and Takashi Saito struck out the three batters he faced in the ninth to earn his 33rd save.

Pitching on three days' rest for the first time in his career, Penny went five innings, allowing an earned run on just two hits while striking out three and walking five. Beimel pitched a perfect sixth and seventh.

Penny's fatigue level no doubt took a spike in the third, when Cory Sullivan worked him for a 17-pitch at-bat, fouling off 12 straight pitches before flying out to left.

The Dodgers put together a 2-0 lead on Matt Kemp's sacrifice fly in the first inning and Martinez's RBI single in the second.

After going hitless against Penny in the first three innings, the Rockies cut the margin to 2-1 in the fourth when Brad Hawpe's bases-loaded sacrifice fly scored Matt Holliday.

In contrast to the eighth-inning homer, Helton experienced a baserunning hiccup with one out in the fourth inning, after having doubled to send Holliday to third, setting up the Rockies' first run.

On a ball hit up the middle by Troy Tulowitzki, Helton was thrown out when shortstop Rafael Furcal made the stop, pivoted and threw a strike to third baseman Shea Hillenbrand.

"I'm thinking, 'Score right there,' and he makes a great play," said Helton, who was hung up in no-man's land when Furcal gained control of the ball. "I'm just running as hard as I can. It was an aggressive mistake."

Hurdle, whose resilient troops now face the Pirates and the Nationals at home, spoke in general terms when asked about Helton's mishap.

"We're always going to play to win," the manager said. "Don't try, 'safety first.' Make things happen on the basepaths, as well as with the bat."

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