(Sports Network) - A poor road trip has further hampered the Los Angeles Dodgers' chances of making a third consecutive appearance in the postseason. Perhaps a matchup with a Colorado Rockies team it has owned in recent years will help Joe Torre's squad climb back in the race.
Los Angeles returns home for this key three-game series with the Rockies having lost five of the final six tests of a seven-game trek through Philadelphia and Atlanta. The Dodgers concluded the swing by dropping three of four bouts with the National League East-leading Braves, including a costly 4-3 setback on Monday in which LA blew a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Down 3-1 entering the bottom of the ninth, Atlanta's Alex Gonzalez and Brian McCann came through with back-to-back singles off new Dodgers closer Hong-Chih Kuo (3-2) before both runners moved up a base on a wild pitch. Kuo walked Brooks Conrad two batters later to load the bases with one out, and Octavio Dotel issued a free pass to David Ross as well to force in a run before surrendering Melky Cabrera's two-RBI single that completed the rally.
"I didn't get the job done today," said Kuo afterward. "I tried to throw strikes. It's tough, but what can we do? We'll get back [Tuesday] and get the job done."
The Dodgers had snapped a 1-1 tie in the eighth with the help of an Atlanta error, as Conrad threw wildly to first after handling Ryan Theriot's grounder to third to allow two runs to score.
Los Angeles now trails rival San Francisco by seven games for the lead in the NL Wild Card standings. The team will try to bounce back when it takes on a Colorado club it's 18-6 against since the start of last season and has taken four of six meetings from so far this year. In addition, the Rockies have been dealt defeats in 10 of their last 13 visits to Dodger Stadium, where Los Angeles is a solid 36-24 thus far in 2010.
Colorado currently stands five games back of the Giants in the Wild Card chase and just won two of three tilts at home from Milwaukee over the weekend. In Sunday's rubber match, Troy Tulowitzki's single with two outs in the bottom of the ninth knocked in the deciding run as the Rockies came through with a hard- fought 6-5 decision.
Dexter Fowler hustled his way to a double with one out in Colorado's half of the ninth and Carlos Gonzalez walked two batters later to set the stage for Tulowitzki, whose hard grounder was slowed by a diving attempt from Milwaukee second baseman Rickie Weeks to enable Fowler to cross the plate.
The Rockies had appeared to have won the game earlier, but second baseman Clint Barmes failed to catch a pop-up in the top of the ninth that would have been the final out. Two runners scored on the play to tie the game at 5-5 and give Colorado closer a blown save.
"Wind, rain, sun, whatever -- it's a routine fly ball that I have to catch, and I missed it," Barmes said. "The worst part is [starting pitcher] Ubaldo [Jimenez] didn't get the win."
Jimenez was in line to become the first 18-game winner in the majors this season after holding the Brewers to three runs and striking out 10 over the first eight innings.
Tulowitzki finished 3-for-4 with two runs scored in Sunday's triumph, and both he and Ian Stewart had a pair of RBI for Colorado.
The Rockies will attempt to carry the momentum from that thrilling win into a clash with Los Angeles' Clayton Kershaw, a pitcher who's beaten Colorado twice already this season. The talented lefty fired eight shutout innings of two-hit ball to top the Rockies in Dodger Stadium on May 9, then struck out nine batters while permitting two runs in five frames in a victory at Coors Field later that month.
Kershaw wasn't very sharp in his most recent Dodger Stadium assignment, though, as he was rocked for six runs and served up a pair of homers over six innings in an August 6 loss to Washington. He fared better in Thursday's start at Philadelphia, permitting two runs in a 6 2/3-inning no-decision against the two-time defending NL champion Phillies.
In 10 career starts against the Rockies, Kershaw is 4-3 with a 3.93 earned run average.
Colorado will hand the ball tonight to Jhoulys Chacin, brought back up from the minors to fill the rotation spot of an injured Jeff Francis. The young prospect made 12 starts for the Rockies from May to early July, but was sent to the bullpen afterward and then demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs on July 24 following a string of shaky relief appearances.
Chacin, who was 5-7 with a respectable 3.64 ERA during his time as a starter earlier this season, comes into tonight's tilt after throwing seven shutout innings for Colorado Springs last Tuesday.
The 22-year-old was also outstanding in a May 8 start at Dodger Stadium, where Chacin scattered six hits and struck out seven over 7 1/3 scoreless innings to defeat Los Angeles. He came out on the short end of a May 30 showdown with Kershaw in Denver, though, and was reached for four runs in 5 1/3 innings that day.
Francis was placed on the 15-day disabled list last week due to soreness in his left shoulder.