Rollins, Utley give Dodgers a good feeling
Experience of onetime champions providing a path for team to follow
LOS ANGELES -- The top third of the Dodgers' batting order is a combined 105 years old, with 41 years of combined Major League experience. Youth is wonderful, but age is not necessarily such a bad thing.
Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez put their accumulated wisdom to use in a variety of ways on Monday night, lifting the Dodgers to a 5-4 triumph in 14 innings at Dodger Stadium that had to jolt the three-time World Series-champion Giants.
San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy and his troupe have grown unaccustomed to losing big games in this fashion, especially late in the season.
Rollins and Utley, onetime champions in Philadelphia, set the table for Gonzalez after A.J. Ellis, another member of the old guard, opened the 14th with a walk against Mike Broadway, the Giants' seventh reliever in the game. One more was coming, briefly.
Facing Yusmeiro Petit, Gonzalez drove a first-pitch changeup to the wall in left-center for a celebrative single. It was the ninth walk-off hit of his career and the eighth by Los Angeles this season, pushing its National League West lead to 4 1/2 games over San Francisco.
As if that wasn't enough to swallow, the Giants have Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw poised to stare them down. Greinke faces the new Mr. October, Madison Bumgarner, on Tuesday night, with Kershaw drawing Mike Leake in the series finale.
"It's definitely a great win, a great feeling," Gonzalez said in the afterglow. "And we have Greinke and Kershaw lined up, so it's an even better feeling."
Rollins, who vowed to turn it on when it counted, had a role in all three run-producing innings, contributing singles in the first, sixth and 14th. Utley, who doubled in the eighth but was stranded at third, followed Rollins' hit in the 14th off Broadway with a bullet of a single to right that loaded the bases for Gonzalez.
Defensively, manager Don Mattingly noted, Rollins and Utley -- both 36 -- brought a poised confidence associated with champions to the biggest series of the season so far.
"Keep playing," Mattingly said when asked about the impact of the middle infielders who shared a World Series title with the City of Brotherly Love in 2008. "You really see it with those guys -- keep going. You really don't feel like anything can affect them.
"They've been through it and been all the way. In the middle of the diamond, they've been through tough games in tough circumstances. It's a good feeling to have those guys out there."
Several hours before the dramatic finish, Gonzalez, 33, launched a two-run homer off former Padres teammate Jake Peavy that tied it at 3-3 in the sixth inning. The two-strike blast to right-center erased a lead the Giants had taken with a three-run third off Brett Anderson.
When Andre Ethier, another wise veteran at 33, powered a drive into the visitors' bullpen two batters after Gonzalez's blast, the Dodgers had a lead and Peavy's night was done.
A duel of bullpens was riveting, both sides distinguishing themselves. San Francisco tied it in the eighth against Juan Nicasio with a two-out RBI double by Marlon Byrd, who had singled home two of the runs in the third by beating a shift with a roller smothered by Utley on the outfield grass.
Byrd, playing for his ninth organization and longing for a second trip to the postseason, has produced 14 RBIs for his new club in the past five games. In the cleanup spot, Buster Posey had four hits and was denied a fifth in the eighth by Ethier, who made a stab off the grass in right that probably saved the game.
"Veteran players understand that you have to keep playing," Ethier said. "It might not happen for you the first time, but you have to keep playing. These guys have a feel for how to play in big games. It showed tonight."
Yet another member of the 30-something group, Carl Crawford, had a pair of hits and delivered two of the team's four stolen bases. The most impressive of those was a theft of third by young Jose Peraza as a pinch-runner in the eighth, but Sergio Romo stranded him.
After Jim Johnson gave Mattingly two shutdown innings, the final three innings -- and the win, the second of his career in 11 decisions -- belonged to right-hander Chris Hatcher in a superb effort.
The Dodgers are in the process of trying to build an identity and find their way to October, a month the Giants have owned in three of the past five seasons. Following Rollins and Utley, who know the path, is a wise route to take.