10/04/09 3:28 AM EST
Rockies fall, finish up with Wild Card
Dodgers claim NL West title by surging to late victory
By Steve Dilbeck / Special to MLB.com
On their sixth try, the Dodgers finally clinched the NL West Saturday with a 5-0 victory over the Rockies before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 54,531.
That left the Rockies as the NL's Wild Card team. They'll open the playoffs Wednesday at Philadelphia. The Rockies won two of six games against the Phillies this season.
"This certainly doesn't dampen our spirits whatsoever," said Rockies manager Jim Tracy. "We have everything to be proud of and a lot of exciting stuff to look forward to."
The Rockies once trailed the Dodgers by 15 1/2 games, but responded to the May 28 promotion of Tracy to turn their season around and push the Dodgers until the second-to-last day of the season.
"I'll guarantee you there's nobody in this room back in the latter part of May who said Colorado Rockies would potentially end up one game behind," Tracy said.
The Dodgers could have clinched the NL West with a victory in any of their previous five games but kept losing while the charging Rockies continued to win. At least until Saturday.
"We're in the playoff and that was our goal all year," said Rockies outfielder Brad Hawpe. "We have a chance to win a World Series."
Saturday's game did offer the Rockies a scare. Left-hander Jorge De La Rosa, who retired his first nine Dodgers, felt his left groin tighten while pitching to Rafael Furcal to lead off the bottom of the fourth.
Tracy pulled De La Rosa, who has won 16 games since June 1, tops in baseball.
De La Rosa said he suffered a similar injury once before in his career.
"It was sore about a week," he said.
Tracy said they would re-evaluate De La Rosa on Sunday before making any decisions on his postseason.
"I don't want to push the envelope or jump to any kind of conclusions or say something that could be totally wrong," Tracy said. "We're going to wait and talk to our medical staff and see where he's at [Sunday]."
With Jose Contreras throwing three shutout innings in relief, Saturday's game remained scoreless until the Dodgers broke the game open with five runs in the seventh off reliever Franklin Morales.
Casey Blake opened the inning with a single that center fielder Carlos Gonzalez misplayed. After Blake was sacrificed to third, pinch-hitter Ronnie Belliard bounced a hit off the glove of first baseman Todd Helton to score Blake for the only run the Dodgers would need.
Second baseman Clint Barmes made a nice diving stop on Belliard's hit, but Morales didn't cover first. The flood gates were opened. Mark Loretta, Juan Pierre, Matt Kemp and Manny Ramirez all drove in runs and the Dodgers had secured the NL West.
"We did a great job," Gonzalez said. "After they led the league all year, and then ending up winning the division one day before the season ends, that's pretty good for us. That means we're really a good team too and have a chance to win."
The Rockies were the NL's best team in the second half, and at 92-69, have already set a franchise record for victories.
"We'll look back on this and be extremely proud, and we should be," Tracy said.
"We're one of eight teams that have an opportunity to play for a world championship."
Tracy said he wants to win Sunday's final regular-season game. But with the division now settled, he said he would now pitch both starters Jason Marquis (15-12) and Jason Hammel (10-8).
Tracy said he also expected to rest shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, Helton and Barmes.
After that, the team prepares for the Phillies.
"There's a sense of accomplishment there," Tracy said.
Steve Dilbeck is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.