LOS ANGELES -- On most nights, Clayton Kershaw can go deep into a game to hand the ball directly to closer Kenley Jansen, or even finish the game himself.
That recipe has worked many times, as Kershaw has lasted at least eight innings in eight of his last 12 starts and Jansen is 31-for-33 in save opportunities. On Monday night, Kershaw was worn down by patient Rockies hitters and Jansen was unavailable after pitching the past two days, but the Dodgers pulled the right bullpen strings to pull out a 4-1 win over the Rockies.
Kershaw was still Kershaw: He went seven innings, allowing a run in the first inning before slamming the door and striking out five, but his 105 pitches forced him from the game. From there, the bullpen worked two innings without blemish and Chris Hatcher earned his first save since May 2.
This Dodgers' bullpen, which ranks 22nd in the Majors in ERA, will be imperative when the playoffs begin. In the hothouse of the postseason, there won't always be a seamless transition from ace to closer.
Holding a 2-1 lead in the eighth, Dodgers reliever Luis Avilan allowed a leadoff single to Brandon Barnes but then responded with a flourish. Avilan struck out Cristhian Adames on three fastballs then put away Jose Reyes with four straight heaters for another strikeout. Don Mattingly then turned to Juan Nicasio to face DJ LeMahieu and Nicasio rewarded his manager with a strikeout.
"I think we have a lot of guys that have the talent to be setup guys or, in the future, closers," catcher Yasmani Grandal said. "We've got a lot of power guys, and you always want to have game-changers from the bullpen."
Without Jansen, Mattingly turned to Hatcher to face the heart of the Rockies' order, including Nolan Arenado and Carlos Gonzalez -- Nos. 1 and 2 in home runs in the National League.
Hatcher allowed a hit to Gonzalez but otherwise retired the Rockies. Hatcher has been one of the best arms out of the bullpen for the Dodgers as he's had scoreless outings in eight of his last nine appearances. Since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 15, Hatcher has a 1.46 ERA, compared to a 6.38 mark before an oblique injury sidelined him.
"I tried to change my attitude a little bit. Can't do any worse, so go out and compete instead of trying to be perfect," Hatcher said. "That's a lot of pressure to put on yourself. Once the ball is out of your hands, it is what it is."
Steve Bourbon is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.