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Bullpen shines through defeat

Bullpen shines through defeat

LOS ANGELES -- Rockies left-handed reliever Alan Embree buried his slider in the dirt, beneath the swing of the Dodgers' Andre Ethier, and possibly gave new life to his standing in the Rockies' bullpen on Monday night.

The clutch strikeout in the 10th inning, with a runner at third base, helped prolong a game the Rockies eventually lost, 4-2. But Embree had given up five runs in his previous three games. To be asked to pitch more high-pressure innings, Embree knew he had to succeed at some point.

"It had been frustrating for me more than anything, because I've felt good, but the results haven't been there," Embree said. "In an 11-1 game, I've historically not been very good in those, but if that's the situation that's put in front of me, I need to step up and get the outs that get the confidence from the manager to go into tight games. I think this was a step in the right direction."

Embree wasn't the only Rockies reliever to redeem himself Monday. Right-hander Juan Rincon stranded an inherited runner and threw a scoreless ninth after he had given up four runs in his previous game. Also Matt Daley, who gave up runs in three of his previous four games, pitched a scoreless inning.

"I think the neat thing about it is it's two-fold: It's the message I tried to send to them, and the message they sent back to me," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said.

Even in defeat, Joel Peralta shined. He pitched two scoreless innings and was out for a third -- for the first time this season -- when he gave up Ethier's two-run game-winning shot.

The way the Dodgers' bullpen has outperformed that of the Rockies has been a key to Los Angeles' 9-1 record in this year's series. Colorado's bullpen ERA is 8.24 to the Dodgers' 2.66.

But in this series, Embree and closer Huston Street are the only Rockies relievers who have been there all season. So Colorado has addressed shortcomings along the way. However, Tracy acknowledged that the Rockies are continuing to look at improving the 'pen.

"If in fact we continue to play the kind of baseball that we've been playing, does it behoove you to look each and every day at any possibility or every possibility that may make your ballclub better?" Tracy said. "We certainly could do that.

"After what I experienced in 2004 [managing the Dodgers], bullpen and bench strength will win games in the months of August and September."

Thomas Harding 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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