Roster battles heat up as Dodgers bat around
Six-run sixth fuels comeback; Elbert collects first win in 2 1/2 years
LOS ANGELES -- With an eye toward the playoff roster, the National League West champion Dodgers were led by a cadre of reserves to a 7-4 comeback win over the Rockies on Friday night, matching last year's win total of 92.
The stars included a pair of players designated for assignment earlier in the year but now with outside shots at making the postseason roster -- reliever Scott Elbert and infielder Darwin Barney.
Elbert struck out the only batter he faced, Charlie Blackmon, with the bases loaded to end a sixth-inning threat. It had been almost 2 1/2 seasons and three elbow operations since Elbert's last win.
"The most satisfying feeling was just getting called up, but a win brings me back to the feeling that I'm capable again," said Elbert. "It's something special. This hasn't been easy."
Barney was obtained from the Cubs on July 28 but his usage has been limited. This was only the second time in September he had two plate appearances in a game, and they came in the same inning, a broken-bat pinch-single and sacrifice fly in the six-run sixth that decided the game.
Both players deflected questions about playing for a roster spot.
"I have no idea what their plan is," said Barney. "I go out and try to help the team win and not get into their job."
The sixth inning included a broken-bat, two-run infield single by Justin Turner, starting at shortstop to rest Hanley Ramirez, and a two-run single from Juan Uribe. Turner's single scored Barney and another reserve, Scott Van Slyke. Dee Gordon had a bunt single in the inning, one of his three hits; the other two were doubles.
"They have a really good lineup -- that's why they won their division," said Rockies starter Jordan Lyles. "They've got a good pitching staff to go along with it. You've got to bear down on all eight guys in the lineup."
Turner played six innings, despite appearing to tweak his left ankle changing directions to field Rafael Ynoa's first-inning hit-and-run grounder.
"We still have a lot to play for," said Turner. "We're trying to keep our momentum going into the playoffs."
Elbert, under consideration to be a third left-handed reliever behind J.P. Howell and Paco Rodriguez, had relieved starter Roberto Hernandez, who went 5 2/3 innings and allowed three runs.
"I feel 100 percent," said Elbert. "It may not show on the radar gun, but I feel really good. I'm very confident and I know if I stay confident, good things can happen."
An error by Gordon at second base on a potential double-play grounder complicated the third inning for Hernandez and Justin Morneau then delivered a two-run homer.
Even with the home run, this was the first start into the sixth inning for Hernandez since Aug. 26.
"I tried to keep the ball a little lower and look for ground ball. Just throw strikes," he said.
With the club cautiously optimistic that Hyun-Jin Ryu will be back from injury by the playoffs, however, it might have been Hernandez's last outing as the Dodgers' fifth starter. Ryu said he felt well after throwing.
"That's the best Roberto's been in a little while," said manager Don Mattingly.
Mattingly, who started Andre Ethier in place of Matt Kemp, later inserted Van Slyke (first base) and Joc Pederson (right field) on defense and Barney as a pinch-hitter, indicating the final weekend series will double as a final exam for players being considered for the last few postseason roster spots.
Pederson could be a sixth outfielder, or Barney could be a seventh infielder to take over for Gordon on defense when the team leads late, the way Mattingly replaces Ramirez at short with Miguel Rojas.
Countering Gordon's fielding error, left fielder Carl Crawford threw out Ynoa -- a former Dodgers farmhand -- at the plate trying to score from second on Michael Cuddyer's single in the seventh inning. It was Crawford's first assist since last year.
"Finally got one," he said.