Dodgers beat Rockies, 6-2, and end skid at five games

DENVER -- Don Mattingly smiled.

“I was tired talking about all those negative things,” the manager said.

Andre Ethier exhaled.

“It was a tough little stretch there,” the All-Star outfielder said.

The Dodgers’ five-game losing streak was over. The wonder team, as Vin Scully recently called this band of journeyman and mid-tier prospects, defeated the Colorado Rockies, 6-2, on Saturday at Coors Field.

Ethier and Elian Herrera drove in two runs each. Leadoff hitter Tony Gwynn Jr.scored three times. Bobby Abreu hit his first home run of the season.

Each of the Dodgers’ eight starting position players reached base. A day after committing a season-high four errors, they played flawless defense.

The Dodgers improved their major league-leading record to 33-20.

But if the victory felt comfortable, it was only because starter Aaron Harang and reliever Scott Elbert made it feel that way.

Defeat is always within reach at Coors Field. No lead is safe here, where the air is thin and the outfield spacious.

Harang, who was winless in his two previous starts, was the first to encounter a potentially game-altering situation.

With the Dodgers leading, 4-1, and one out, Harang walked Dexter Fowler and Marco Scutaro in succession to load the bases. Up came Carlos Gonzalez, who entered the game as the National League leader in runs batted in.

“Just going up and making sure he didn’t get anything to really drive,” Harang said.

Gonzalez popped up to Herrera, the third baseman, in foul territory.

Harang got Michael Cuddyer to ground into a force out to get out of the inning unscathed.

The outs were huge.

“You see how we responded,” Ethier said.

The next inning, Abreu hit a home run to extend the Dodgers lead to 5-1. Ethier doubled and scored on a single by Adam Kennedy to increase the margin to 6-1.

But former closer Javy Guerra entered the game in the seventh inning and complicated matters.

He gave up a leadoff single to DJ LeMahieu, which was followed by a run-scoring double by Wilin Rosario. The lead was down to 6-2.

With one out and men at the corners, Mattingly called on the left-handed Elbert to call face the left-handed-hitting Gonzalez.

“I came in with my same approach,” Elbert said. “Obviously, try to get ahead with my slider. I got lucky this time. He swung.”

And grounded into an inning-ending double play.

“You’re playing here, the game’s not over until the last out,” Elbert said. “But you still have to go to your strengths, you pitch your game and hope for the best. If you make quality pitches, make pitches down, keep the ball on the ground, that’s the whole thing here. Some balls are going to find holes and stuff like that, but the whole key is keeping the ball on the ground.”

Elbert’s heroics preserved the win for Harang (4-3), who held the Rockies to a run and four hits over six innings.

Elbert knew he averted a potential disaster.

“Even a base hit there, you have runners on first and second or first and third in a 6-3 ballgame,” he said. “One more base hit, it’s 6-4 and we have two innings to go. I think that’s not necessary a save in the game, but you stop the bleeding there and it makes those last two innings a little bit easier.”