Colorado Rockies left fielder Ty Wigginton had a game he'd like to forget — dropping a flyball that led to a three-run inning for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and stranding three runners in scoring position his first two times up against Clayton Kershaw.
Kershaw outpitched Jhoulys Chacin with 6 2-3 gritty innings to win his fourth straight start, Matt Kemp drove in two runs and the Dodgers beat the Rockies 3-2 on Tuesday night for their fourth consecutive victory.
"Kershaw's a good, young pitcher. But still, we had Chacin on the mound," Wigginton said. "I like how Chacin is throwing the ball, so you know he's going to give us an opportunity to win the game. As a lineup, we've got to figure out a way to do that. We just didn't get the job done tonight."
The first two batters Kershaw faced broke their bats hitting ground balls. Jonathan Herrera reached safely when Juan Rivera dropped the throw from shortstop Rafael Furcal and Todd Helton walked. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch, but they had to stay put on Troy Tulowitzki's groundout to first base, and were stranded when Wigginton struck out.
Tulowitzki led off the Rockies' fourth with a ground-rule double over Kemp's head. But Wigginton struck out, and Kershaw retired Mark Ellis and Ryan Spilborghs on grounders to shortstop. Wigginton has only four RBIs in 58 at-bats over his last 20 games, and is batting just .173 with runners in scoring position this season (14 for 81).
Wigginton's evening got worse when he camped under Furcal's lazy flyball leading off the fourth and dropped it trying to make a one-handed catch.
"I just missed it," Wigginton said. "It kind of angled more toward center than I was expecting. With the flight and with a left-handed hitter, it usually goes toward the line. But there's no excuse for it. I just missed the ball."
Los Angeles capitalized with the first three runs of the game, two of which were unearned. Kemp doubled home two, got to third on a groundout and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rivera, as second baseman Ellis backpedaled out to short right field and made the catch before falling backwards over the oncoming Spilborghs — who hit the deck to avoid him.
"We played with some intensity, but we didn't play well enough to win," manager Jim Tracy said. "We dropped a flyball in the only inning that they scored, and I'm not so sure where that inning would have gone if we didn't. We did a very good job of creating scoring opportunities for ourselves against one of the better pitchers in the league. But when we got those opportunities, we left them stranded."
Chacin (8-8) was charged with three runs — one earned — and three hits in six innings. The right-hander is 0-4 with a 4.87 ERA in seven starts since winning his previous three outings, including a 6-5 decision over the Dodgers in which he pitched eight scoreless innings of three-hit ball before the bullpen gave up five runs in the ninth.
"I threw better tonight and I was commanding my fastball. That made me happy," Chacin said. "The only thing you can do is do your job, and whatever happens happens."
Kershaw (12-4) threw a career-high 125 pitches in his 105th big league start, allowing two runs and eight hits and striking out six. The 23-year-old left-hander, who appeared in his first All-Star game two weeks earlier, is 7-0 with a 1.65 ERA in his last 10 starts at Dodger Stadium, where he hasn't lost since St. Louis beat him 9-2 on April 16.
"Personally, I thought Kershaw was the best we've seen him," Wigginton said. "He had the most life on his fastball. His breaking stuff was sharp. You knew it was going to be a tough battle with him on the mound. He's been throwing the ball good lately."
"He's grown as a pitcher. That's what you're supposed to do — get better and better every year. And that's what he's doing," Kemp said. "He's becoming a great pitcher, one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball, and he's going deep into games. I looked up in the fifth inning and he had like 90-something pitches, but he pulled out two more for us."
Matt Guerrier retired all four batters he faced and Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his second save in three attempts. Regular closer Javy Guerra got the night off after posting a victory and two saves in the previous three games.
Kershaw worked with runners on base in every inning he pitched. The Rockies got to him in the fifth when Helton drove in Dexter Fowler with Colorado's third straight two-out single. It ended a string of 27 consecutive innings in which Kershaw did not allow an earned run. Kershaw was lifted after Helton's seventh-inning groundout drove in the Rockies' second run.
"I think pitching with guys on base and battling is more fatiguing than going 1-2-3 and throwing 150 pitches," Kershaw said. "When situations get a little more difficult, I think I'm definitely able to calm down a little bit more than I was a year or two ago. I think that just comes with starting a lot of games and getting that experience under your belt from pitching in tougher situations."
Notes: Kershaw's overall ERA is 2.72. The only other time he threw at least 120 pitches was April 21 against Atlanta, when he made 122 over 8 2-3 innings in a game the Dodgers won 5-3 in 12. ... Chacin is 3-2 with a 0.79 ERA in his last five starts against the Dodgers, including three scoreless outings in which he went eight innings twice and seven the other time. ... The Rockies placed five-time All-Star Jason Giambi on the 15-day DL Tuesday, after he strained his left quad running to first base as a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning Monday. ... Dodgers 3B Juan Uribe, 0 for 15 lifetime against Chacin with six strikeouts, missed his third straight game due to a lower abdominal strain. ... Spilborghs was 0 for 3 against Kershaw, and is 6 for 36 lifetime against him.