Dodgers-Rockies Preview

An early September surge put the Colorado Rockies in a good

position to challenge for their first NL West title. The month is

now nearly over and so are their chances of securing a playoff

berth.

The Rockies seek to maintain their slim playoff hopes Tuesday

night when they continue their three-game set against the visiting

Los Angeles Dodgers.

Since a season-high 10-game winning streak moved them within

one-half game of San Diego and San Francisco for the West lead on

Sept. 12, the Rockies (83-73) have dropped nine of 13 to fall five

games behind the division-leading Giants with six to play.

Colorado is third in the wild-card race, 4 1/2 games behind

Atlanta and four back of the Padres.

“If we were ugly before this game, now we’re bleeding,”

outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said following Monday’s 3-1 loss to open

this series.

Desperate to stop the bleeding, the Rockies will give the ball

to Jeff Francis (4-6, 4.71 ERA), who will try to avoid losing his

third straight start since coming off the disabled list with left

shoulder tightness. Making his first start in 10 days, the

left-hander needed 81 pitches to get through 3 2-3 innings of

Thursday’s 10-9 loss at Arizona. He yielded three runs and six

hits.

Francis also struggled in a 5-4 loss to the Dodgers on May 28,

giving up five runs in 5 1-3 innings.

Los Angeles (76-81) will counter with Hiroki Kuroda (11-13,

3.27), who could be making his penultimate start for the franchise

with his three-year deal expiring at the end of the season and a

return to Japan a possibility.

“Whatever he chooses to do, it certainly will be a good year for

him,” manager Joe Torre told the Dodgers’ official website.

The right-hander went eight innings in Thursday’s 3-1 victory

over San Diego, limiting the Padres to one run and five hits and

retiring 14 of the final 15 batters he faced.

Kuroda is 0-4 with a 6.25 ERA in seven career starts against

Colorado, one of two NL teams along with St. Louis that he has

never defeated.

Troy Tulowitzki, 4 for 19 with a homer against Kuroda, is two

home runs shy of matching Babe Ruth and Albert Belle for the

all-time September record of 17. The Colorado shortstop also needs

three RBIs to match Ruth for most in the month (43).

Gonzalez, the NL’s top hitter at .340, is batting .346 (18 for

52) with five homers and 16 RBIs against Los Angeles this season.

He’s 3 for 10 with a homer lifetime off Kuroda.