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Bullpen's encore gives LA series win

Bullpen's encore gives LA series win

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DENVER -- Among Joe Torre's many traits is superstition, and it was on display Sunday, when he figured that Friday night's strategy worked so well, he'd try it again.

So, a five-inning start (Carlos Monasterios on Friday, Clayton Kershaw on Sunday) was followed by the same quartet of relievers (Ramon Troncoso, Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario and Jonathan Broxton) and the Dodgers came away with another comeback win, 4-3 over the Rockies.

The Dodgers start their longest homestand of the year (13 games) on Monday, knowing that they get Andre Ethier back after actually picking up two games in the standings by going 10-5 without him.

"This was a good series for us," said Torre. "We came out of Chicago winning one of three. This park, this club, they're playing well, and our bullpen essentially won two games. Even though we made errors, we played good defense when it counted."

The victory on Sunday was a struggle, as Kershaw (5-3) had a game of extremes. Unable to grip the slick ball in thin Denver air, he let a one-run lead get away as the Rockies scored twice in a 30-pitch first inning that included a hit batter, a walk, a wild pitch and second baseman Blake DeWitt losing a popup in the sun.

But Kershaw found a solution (he called it "an adjustment") for his slippery fingers and bobbed and weaved (nine strikeouts, four walks) his way to qualify for a win that was accomplished as much by teammate defense, which the Dodgers haven't done a lot of this year.

"The defense picked me up," said Kershaw. "I can't say enough about them. As for me, the first inning was kind of rough, but I made an adjustment and after that it was all right. I was able to get down in the zone and make better pitches."

Center fielder Matt Kemp got a good jump and made a diving catch of Chris Iannetta's sinking liner with the bases loaded to end the fifth inning.

"This outfield is one of the hardest in the league," said Kemp. "It's so big. I think this one and San Francisco are the hardest to play. There's a lot of room and it's always windy."

With Ethier still out and Manny Ramirez getting his 38th birthday off, Kemp was flanked by reserves Reed Johnson and Xavier Paul, and each came up big. Johnson made a running catch to rob Ryan Spilborghs of extra bases earlier that inning. Xavier Paul leaped at the wall to flag down Carlos Gonzalez's drive leading off the seventh.

"We did nothing to lose the game and everything we could to win the game," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "To their credit, they made three fantastic defensive plays where we had runs if even only one of them doesn't get made."

Paul, despite his big game, is likely to be given a big thank you and a return ticket to Triple-A Albuquerque on Monday to make room for Ethier, and he knows it.

"I try not to think about it, man," he said. "The decision is out of my control. Ethier's going to play right field every day. Whatever they decide, they decide. I've got to take it in stride and play hard."

With James Loney driving in the first two Dodgers runs, Paul and Johnson made key contributions for the final two in the decisive sixth-inning rally after Casey Blake led off with a double that went through Rockies third baseman Ian Stewart. Paul pulled a bouncer into right field that scored an aggressive Blake for an RBI single. Johnson followed with a hit-and-run line-drive single that sent Paul to third and Paul scored on DeWitt's fielder's-choice grounder.

With a two-run lead for the Dodgers to protect, Torre had his bullpen ready to duplicate Friday's tag-team effort.

"I felt good about who we were bringing in," said Torre.

The only difference was that Broxton made things exciting by allowing Stewart's leadoff double in the ninth and Blake made the game tighter when pinch-hitter Seth Smith's hard grounder hit the lip of the infield grass and scooted between Blake's legs for the second Dodgers error of the game.

But former Rockies infielder Jamey Carroll, inserted that inning for DeWitt at second base, made a diving stop on Gonzalez's grounder to get a force at second and was sure-handed fielding Spilborghs' bouncer for the final out as Broxton recorded his 13th save and 12th this month.

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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