Footsteps are getting a lot closer


The Dodgers' lead in the National League West is down to two games.

Over a team that once trailed them by 15 1/2 games.

So much for the idea that the Colorado Rockies were worn down.

The Dodgers were the club that looked spent Tuesday night, as they blew a two-run lead, erased another, then watched the second-place Rockies flood out of their dugout to chase down Troy Tulowitzki, who lined a bases-loaded walk-off single in the 10th inning that was the difference in the 5-4 ballgame.

A night removed from an emotional 14-inning victory on the same field over the third-place San Francisco Giants, the Rockies celebrated as if it were October, circling Tulowitzki on the basepaths and taking their on-field festivities into center field.

With Huston Street given the day off, the Rockies ended the game having used every pitcher available to them.

It didn't matter.

Their starting center fielder, Dexter Fowler, was put on the disabled list earlier in the day.

It didn't matter.

One of their best hitters, Carlos Gonzalez, was out of the lineup because he cut his hand with a steak knife.

It didn't matter.

The Dodgers' lead in the standings was reduced to two games.

The last time they were up by so few games was on April 24.

Andre Ethier said constant reminders of the shrinking margin are starting to affect the team.

"Sometimes you try to go out and do too much," Ethier said.

Catcher Russell Martin denied that there was a growing sense of panic or urgency in the Dodgers' clubhouse.

"I don't want to feel like we're playing to keep a lead," Martin said. "You play to add on to a lead, not to keep it."

But were the Rockies, who won the previous night on a walk-off grand slam by Ryan Spilborghs after giving up two runs in the top of the 14th, catching the kind of breaks the Dodgers were catching earlier in the season?

"Earlier in the year is a long time," Martin said.

Ethier said the result was less of a reflection of what the Rockies did and more of what the Dodgers didn't do.

"We had pitching good enough to win," Ethier said. "We lost this game. Our offense didn't come through in key times."

The Rockies received a break in the 10th inning when Gonzalez, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth, tried to bunt over Ian Stewart, who was on first.

Reliever James McDonald couldn't reach the ball but first baseman James Loney did, firing a rushed throw to Orlando Hudson, who was covering the bag. Hudson couldn't catch the ball -- "I think the runner got in the way or something," Loney said -- and suddenly the Rockies had men on first and second. McDonald intentionally walked Todd Helton to load the bases with one out, setting up Tulowitzki's big moment.

Manny Ramirez, who was booed at Dodger Stadium on Sunday for a couple of defensive gaffes, prevented the game from moving out of the Dodgers' reach with his glove and extended the game with his bat.

With the Dodgers trailing 3-2 in the eighth inning, Hong-Chih Kuo walked Helton to put men on first and second with two outs for the Rockies.

The next batter, Tulowitzki, doubled into the left-field corner.

Spilborghs scored. Helton nearly did as well, but Ramirez reacted quickly to the ball hit by Tulowitzki, delivering it to shortstop Rafael Furcal, who threw out Helton at the plate.

With two out in the bottom of the inning, Ramirez singled to right to score Furcal from third base to cap a two-run rally that was started by a single by Juan Pierre.

The Dodgers were up, 2-0, as Ethier drove in Matt Kemp with a first-inning single and Casey Blake hit a solo home run in the fourth. The lead vanished when Brad Hawpe hit a two-run home run off Clayton Kershaw in the fourth.

The Rockies went ahead shortly after Kershaw was pulled after 6 1/3 innings, as Ronald Belisario served up a go-ahead solo shot to Clint Barmes.

Dodgers Manager Joe Torre explained that Kershaw, who threw 104 pitches, had already reached his pitch count.

"It's not my call," Kershaw said. "They don't pay me to make decisions. They pay me to pitch."


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