"That's a tough game to lose, obviously," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.
The Dodgers are 9-1 against the Rockies this season, but this wasn't the continuation of the bullying they administered during the early part of the season -- when lopsided scores were common. The Rockies, who lost for just the fourth time in 24 games, stood up to the Dodgers. But they lost because they went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position, finished with six hits, struck out 17 times and blew their biggest chance -- first and third with no outs in the top of the 10th.
The loss in the opener of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium, witnessed by 41,288, left the Rockies 8 1/2 games behind the Dodgers in the National League West. But with more than half a season to play, and with the Rockies' self-respect intact, it was easy to put this one in perspective.
"It's just one game," Rockies right fielder Brad Hawpe said. "There was a lot of good pitching today. There were some opportunities on both sides."
Both teams pitched as if they were sending the signal that they'll be in the playoff picture when summer turns into autumn.
Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez went seven innings, yielded five hits and struck out four. The Dodgers' Randy Wolf went six, with four hits and four strikeouts. Each gave up two runs. Each couldn't quibble with his relief help.
The Dodgers' James McDonald (2-1) earned the win with two strikeouts in a perfect top of the 13th, but Jeff Weaver deserved a pat on the back. After Ryan Spilborghs doubled and Chris Iannetta singled to open the 10th, Weaver escaped by fanning Carlos Gonzalez, Dexter Fowler and Clint Barmes, tricking them into offering at pitches that dived out of the strike zone.
"He made some good pitches, but at the same time, he threw a lot of balls, so you really have to be selective up there," Fowler said.
With the Dodgers' Juan Pierre at third with one out in the bottom of the 10th, the Rockies' Alan Embree -- who had given up runs in three straight outings -- worked a grounder from Orlando Hudson and struck out Ethier on a diving slider to end the threat. Earlier, Matt Daley, who had given up runs in three of his past four outings, and Juan Rincon, who gave up four runs Saturday night, had scoreless innings.
Joel Peralta (0-1) worked the 11th and 12th and struck out three before giving up a Casey Blake 13th-inning leadoff single and Ethier's 15th homer of the season. Peralta had not gone beyond two innings this year, but Tracy had to send him out for a third. Closer Huston Street had thrown three straight games and was unavailable, and the Rockies were down to Josh Fogg in the bullpen.
Peralta said his split-finger to Ethier was "supposed to be better than that, a little bit lower, but he got out front and got a good swing on it ... normally, I get a ground ball."
Each starter had one big mistake. Wolf's was a fifth-inning, 2-0 fastball that Spilborghs sent into the left-center-field bleachers for his sixth homer of the season. Jimenez's was a little more complicated.
With Wolf at the plate and runners at first and second, Jimenez thought time was called and stopped his delivery. But plate umpire Bruce Dreckman hadn't granted time -- no matter what a player says or what motion he makes, timeout is only at the umpire's discretion -- so Jimenez balked. Wolf then knocked a tying, two-run single off Jimenez, who appeared temporarily rattled.
"I heard somebody say, 'Step off,' and when I looked to the plate, the hitter was out [of the batter's box] -- I thought there was timeout," Jimenez said.
Wolf said Rockies catcher Iannetta was the one trying to have play stopped.
"I started to step out, and I realized that the umpire wasn't calling timeout and that Iannetta wasn't ready, so I [lifted my arm] and Jimenez stopped, which is a balk," Wolf said.
Jimenez remained 0-3 with a 7.77 ERA in four starts against the Dodgers, but much of that was back then. Monday, he gave a representative account of where he is now.
Same could be said for the Rockies.
"Especially after what happened tonight, they know we're going to be out there every single night and we're going to compete," Jimenez said.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less