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Hawpe delivers in Rockies' victory

Hawpe delivers in Rockies' victory

LOS ANGELES -- There is a lot of ground and little time, but the Rockies are doing lately what they need to do.

String wins together.

Five, in fact, and they've taken the past two from a team they need to beat.

With single runs in four innings, the Rockies nibbled away at a three-run deficit and assembled a seemingly improbable 4-3 victory over the Dodgers on Wednesday night.

Improbable because they squandered plenty of opportunities to make it easy, as the Rockies stranded 11 baserunners.

Improbable, too, because the Rockies were 4-for-14 with runners in scoring position.

But the Dodgers appeared even less interested in securing a victory and maintaining pace with the Diamondbacks in the National League West as they committed four errors, including a costly one in the ninth.

"You take advantage where you can," said the Rockies' Matt Holliday, who scored the winning run.

The Rockies took the lead in the ninth when Holliday led off inning after being hit by a pitch from Jonathan Broxton. Holliday then stole second and advanced to third as catcher Danny Ardoin's throw sailed into center field for an error.

Brad Hawpe followed with a flare single to drive in one of his three runs and the key hit that produced the victory.

"There is no secret or sort of formula that we're trying to play by. We're just trying to win games," said Holliday, who singled and reached base four times. "We're trying to go out there and have some good at-bats and our pitchers have been keeping us in games and our bullpen is doing well. That's all we can do."

But improbable has become a Rockies hallmark, so aptly defined last year when they won 14 of their last 15 games and swept through the postseason for their first World Series berth before getting swept aside by the Red Sox.

So an eight-game deficit produced by a record that is still 10 games under .500 also would seem to be an unlikely scenario for returning to the playoffs, but they're taking care of the tasks in front of them. The Rockies remain eight back of Arizona but are six back of the Dodgers.

"We're in the best place we've been all year. Unfortunately, we're still 10 games under .500," Rockies manager Clint Hurdle said.

Jeff Francis led the staff with 17 wins last season, but he took the hill on Wednesday with just three wins to his credit this season.

The Dodgers touched him for a run in the first as Juan Pierre singled and scored on Matt Kemp's hit. Then in the second, Nomar Garciaparra singled and went to third on a one-out double by Russell Martin. Ardoin hit a ground ball to Troy Tulowitzki, but the ball glanced off the shortstop's glove, allowing both runners to score.

Down three runs, though, Francis tightened and escaped the third inning. Jeff Kent and Manny Ramirez both singled with one out, but the left-hander retired Garciaparra on a fly ball to right and Casey Blake on a popout to short.

Ardoin and Martin both singled to lead off the fourth and advanced on Chad Billingsley's sacrifice. But Francis came back to strike out Pierre and Kemp to end the inning. He allowed a leadoff single to Kent in the fifth but then retired six straight.

"I always feel like I can go out and make those pitches but I haven't always executed that well in that situation," Francis said. "Today, I was able to execute them and get a couple of big outs."

Manuel Corpas, Taylor Buchholz (6-3) and Brian Fuentes then combined to throw three perfect innings of relief with Buchholz getting the win and Fuentes earning his 24th save.

"That is the bread and butter of the ballclub," Hurdle said of his bullpen. "The starting pitching gets us in position and we have a couple of different ways to get things done at the back end. It just picks you up."

Picking it up, albeit slowly, was the offense as Tulowitzki hit his fifth home run of the year in the fourth to get the Rockies on the board. Then in the fifth, Francis doubled, Omar Quintanilla walked and Willy Taveras bunted aboard to load the bases. Holliday hit into a fielder's choice with Francis retired at the plate, but Hawpe followed with a roller that Blake could not handle and Quintanilla scored.

Taveras reached base with one out in the seventh as Martin, who played third base instead of catcher, pulled Blake off the bag at first with an errant throw. Holliday singled and Hawpe drove in Taveras with a hit to tie the score and ultimately set up the victory.

"We play to win. We come here every day to win," Holliday said. "We don't come here and spend 12 hours a day at this park to lay down. We're here to win."

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

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