Dodgers clinch NL West, beat Rockies 5-0
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' magic number for clinching the NL West is down to zero - finally.
After a season-worst five-game losing streak, they came through with one game left in the regular season and beat the stubborn Colorado Rockies 5-0 on Saturday night with a five-run seventh triggered by RBI singles from pinch-hitters Ronnie Belliard and Mark Loretta and six scoreless innings by 21-year-old lefty Clayton Kershaw.
Los Angeles' second straight division title wasn't as easy to secure as it appeared to be last weekend, when it held a six-game lead with seven games remaining. The Rockies, who were 15½ games behind the Dodgers on June 3, entered this three-game series having to sweep to win their first division title in the franchise's 17-year history.
"We were some of those people who didn't think it came soon enough," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "We were on the brink last Sunday against Pittsburgh."
The Rockies took the opener 4-3 for their fifth straight win and ninth in 12 games, but will have to settle for their second wild-card berth in three years and a matchup with the defending World Series champion Phillies.
And they may have to start the division series without Jorge De La Rosa, who left the game in the fourth inning because of tightness in his right groin.
The Dodgers can now concentrate on next Wednesday's division series opener at Chavez Ravine against the Central Division champion St. Louis Cardinals. It will be a rematch of their 2004 NLDS showdown, when the Cards won and the teams shook hands after the final game. The Dodgers' manager then was Jim Tracy, who now calls the shots for the Rockies.
Casey Blake led off the seventh against Franklin Morales (3-2) with a single and continued to second when center fielder Carlos Gonzalez misplayed it for only his second error of the season.
James Loney sacrificed Blake to third and Belliard, batting for Orlando Hudson, followed with a sharp grounder off the glove of first baseman Todd Helton. After a walk to Russell Martin, Loretta and Juan Pierre followed with RBI singles. Matt Kemp added a sacrifice fly and Manny Ramirez capped the rally with an RBI single.
Morales was charged with all five runs.
Hong-Chih Kuo pitched a perfect seventh for the victory. George Sherrill did likewise in the eighth and Jonathan Broxton got the last three outs.
The Dodgers' closer retired Garrett Atkins on a fly to right fielder Andre Ethier and sent the sellout crowd of 54,531 into a frenzy as Broxton's teammates rushed the mound in celebration of the Dodgers' first back-to-back division titles since 1977-78.
"It never gets old," Torre said. "You do it with different people all the time. Just to see these men turn into little boys."
Kershaw started strong, striking out his first five batters and retiring his first 11 in a row.
Things got testy in the third inning, when Dodgers bench coach Bob Schaefer was ejected by plate umpire Doug Eddings for griping from the dugout about a called strike with Kershaw at the plate. Once he got back on the mound, Kershaw kept throwing strikes. He had nine strikeouts through the first 3 2-3 innings, which got his pitch count up to 56.
De La Rosa retired his first nine batters before injuring himself on his 40th pitch.
The left-hander was relieved by Jose Contreras with a 2-0 count on Rafael Furcal, who singled and advanced to third on a pair of groundouts. But Ramirez lined out to right field.
Kershaw allowed three hits, struck out 10 and walked three. He was 0-3 in his final 11 starts despite a 2.60 ERA during that stretch.
For the season, Kershaw was 8-8 with a 2.78 ERA in 30 starts and had 185 strikeouts in 171 innings.
Saturday was an ugly anniversary for the Dodgers on several counts. In 1951, Ralph Branca gave up a three-run homer by Bobby Thomson in the bottom of the ninth inning at New York's Polo Grounds as the New York Giants won the NL pennant with a stunning 5-4 win in the deciding game of a three-game playoff.
In 1962, the Dodgers lost the third and deciding game of another three-game playoff with the Giants, who rallied with four runs in the ninth to win 6-4 at Los Angeles and advanced to the World Series.
NOTE: Among those in attendance was the oldest living major league player, former Brooklyn Dodger INF Tony Malinosky, who turns 100 years old on Monday. ... Pierre was presented with the team's fourth annual Roy Campanella Award by Campy's daughter, Joni Roan, in a pregame ceremony.
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