After Rox make it close, LA pulls away in ninth
Colorado pulls to within a run before Culberson drops ball in key spot
DENVER -- For the second straight game, the Dodgers demonstrated that they're a step ahead of the Rockies -- the way they've been heads and shoulders above everyone in the Majors in the second half of the season.
The Rockies ended Dodgers pitcher Ricky Nolasco's scoreless streak at 20 innings. However, a Dodgers team resting Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig managed to score the most runs off Jhoulys Chacin in his last 11 starts en route to a 7-4 victory at Coors Field on Tuesday night in front of 25,807.
The Rockies (65-75) managed two runs and five hits off Nolasco (12-9), who struck out five. The game came a night after the Rockies knocked 11 hits in five innings off Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw -- the most hits he had given up in his career -- but lost. Even more frustrating, Kershaw still walked away with a win.
Tuesday was another case of the National League West-leading Dodgers (83-55) making key plays -- after all, they're 36-8 since the All-Star break and on a 29-5 road run -- while the Rockies could be counted on for the key mistake.
"We just didn't play well, especially against those guys," said Chacin (13-8), who gave up four runs -- the most since he yielded four on July 4, also against the Dodgers. "They do everything right."
Baserunning misadventures by Michael Cuddyer in the sixth and Dexter Fowler in the eighth cost Colorado two rallies. After cutting the difference to 4-3 in the bottom of the eighth on Josh Rutledge's pinch-hit leadoff homer, the Rockies saw left fielder Charlie Culberson drop Mark Ellis' potentially inning-ending fly ball to allow three runs to score. The bases were loaded at the time because normally reliable Rex Brothers gave up two hits and a walk.
Even with Ramirez getting a day off and Puig sitting because he irritated a right knee strain on Monday afternoon, the Dodgers had enough. Carl Crawford had three hits, including a two-run single in the Dodgers' three-run second. The Rockies, meanwhile, never managed more than one run in any inning.
"What they're doing is finding a way to win," Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado said. "You watch their at-bats now compared to the beginning of the season, there are so many more quality at-bats. They're taking pitches, seeing the ball well.
"We compete with them. We do. We've just got to try to close it out."
Chacin was down 4-0 after five innings, but he battled through seven innings and gave up no more runs on nine total hits.
"I battled the whole game, but I didn't have my best command or movement on my fastball," Chacin said. "I left a couple balls up and they didn't try to do too much. They'd just go the other way."
Nolasco held the Rockies to one hit and one walk in the first four innings and had a 4-1 lead before Charlie Blackmon doubled and Chacin added an RBI single with two outs in the fifth. DJ LeMahieu opened the sixth with a double and took third when left fielder Crawford misplayed the bounce off the fence. Troy Tulowitzki drove him home with a groundout.
"I just attacked," Nolasco said. "Obviously, this is a dangerous place to pitch and a very good lineup. The key was my fastball in. If you don't do that, guys hang over the plate and it makes it easier for them."
After Tulowitkzi's RBI made it 4-2, Cuddyer singled. But Cuddyer tried to take off for second with Nolasco still holding the ball and was thrown out with room to spare, thus killing the potential rally.
"Cuddy's always looking for an edge, whether it's in the box or on the bases, and he had a read," Rockies manager Walt Weiss said. "He saw it and he took off a little too soon."
After Rutledge's homer, Fowler -- in his first game back after missing six with a left knee bruise -- drew a walk and took second on LeMahieu's sacrifice bunt. But Tulowitzki lined to short and Fowler, still unable to move laterally as well as he'd like, was an easy mark for a double play.
"It's tough trying to plant," Fowler said. "Even on that bunt, trying to go back and forth is tough."
The strategy that yielded Rutledge's homer also backfired on Colorado.
Rockies All-Star left fielder Carlos Gonzalez, who had been out since Aug. 4 with a sprained right middle finger, entered in the eighth for defense. But with Gonzalez's finger still sore, the Rockies used Rutledge to bat for him. In the top of the ninth, Culberson -- an infielder who had outfield added to his duties in Triple-A Colorado Springs -- took over in left.
Ellis launched Brothers' pitch to left-center with the bases loaded. Culberson made a long sprint to the gap, arrived in time, but the ball ticked off his glove.
"So I'm like, 'All right, I'm going to catch it.' But I got to it a little quicker, a little better than I thought, because I've not really had to go after balls like that," Culberson said. "I was expecting it to be closer to the wall, but I started to pull up at the last second. Then I missed it."
Colorado added a run off Dodgers reliever Ronald Belisario in the bottom of the ninth, but rookie Chris Withrow ended the game by striking out Corey Dickerson.