DENVER -- The Dodgers’ relievers performed their usual routine Friday.
They met in the dugout five minutes before the national anthem. They walked out to the bullpen together. And they preserved their team’s lead, this time with Chan Ho Park, Scott Elbert, Cory Wade and Scott Proctor combining to post three scoreless innings in a 7-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field that maintained the Dodgers’ 3 1/2 -game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West. The third-place Rockies fell 9 1/2 games out of first place.
Asked about the bullpen, Dodgers Manager Joe Torre nodded his head and said, “Obviously, you’re never comfortable in this ballpark.”
Especially when holding on to a two-run lead, which is what the Dodgers had to do until James Loney’s three-run double in the top of the ninth made it unnecessary for Torre to call on interim closer Jonathan Broxton.
Taking over for Chad Billingsley (15-10), who pitched six innings and gave up two runs, the Dodgers’ bullpen lowered its earned-run average to 1.27 over its last 12 games, a span in which the team has won 11 times. The group will welcome an addition tonight when closer Takashi Saito is activated from the 60-day disabled list.
“We have a lot of confidence right now,” Park said. “I think the other teams are thinking about us.”
Park was the first out of the ‘pen, forcing Clint Barmes to ground out to start the bottom of the seventh and giving up a hit to Matt Holliday.
Brad Hawpe was five for nine lifetime against Park, so when he came to the plate, Torre brought in rookie left-hander Elbert, who struck out Hawpe.
Wade finished the inning by getting Garrett Atkins to ground out and retired the side in the eighth. In 9 1/3 innings over eight games since he was activated from the disabled list Aug. 28, Wade has given up only one run -- and that was in his first game back.
Proctor, who retired the side in the ninth, offered the idea of the relievers’ meeting in the dugout before games and walking out to the bullpen together. The suggestion came during a preseason meeting.
“It’s better to be united because everybody’s going to have to pull someone else out of a situation at some time,” Proctor said.
Providing relief for the relievers was Loney, who was wasn’t in the lineup because he was one for 15 lifetime against Rockies starter Jeff Francis. Entering the game as a defensive replacement in the bottom of the seventh for Nomar Garciaparra, Loney was two for two, his ninth-inning double giving him 27 RBIs in 17 career games at Coors Field. He drove in six runs here on May 3 and five more on July 21. He drove in nine on Sept. 28, 2006.
Billingsley admitted he had some control problems. He gave up a run in the first on a home run by Holliday and another in the second on a two-out single by Clint Barmes that scored Troy Tulowitzki. But he forced the Rockies to leave five runners in scoring position.
“I was able to make pitches when I needed to,” said Billingsley, who is 11-3 with a 2.61 earned-run average over his last 17 starts.
The Dodgers went ahead, 3-2, in the fourth inning, when Garciaparra doubled and scored on a single by Matt Kemp, who also drove in a run in the second.
Manny Ramirez increased the Dodgers’ lead to 4-2 by driving in his seventh run in three games on a seventh-inning single that scored Angel Berroa.