Dodgers-Rockies Preview

It's about to become a bit more tense for the Los Angeles Dodgers if they can't shake out of their recent funk.

With a series against their closest pursuer looming, the Dodgers try to at least put themselves on the brink of clinching the NL West on Sunday against the Colorado Rockies.

By dropping six of its last eight, Los Angeles (87-67) has struggled to wrap up a team-record third straight division title. Instead of already booking a spot in the postseason, the Dodgers' magic number remains at two and they hold a seven-game lead over second-place San Francisco with eight to play.

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Even though they open a four-game road series with the Giants on Monday, they could have the division clinched with a win Sunday and if San Francisco falls at Oakland.

"We want to win our way in. Hopefully we can come out and win and Oakland can take a game from them and we can celebrate tomorrow," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "If not, we can do it on their field, which would be sweet as well."

The Dodgers are trying to avoid a sweep by the last-place Rockies (65-90) after Yimi Garcia served up Carlos Gonzalez's walk-off, two-run homer in Saturday's 8-6 loss.

"At this point it's tough to win games down the stretch, it's tough to close things out," manager Don Mattingly said.

Los Angeles will again try to do it without star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez after he was scratched from Saturday's lineup with a pinched nerve in his lower back.

"It's not something honestly that we will worry about," Mattingly said. "Every time he rests it, the back feels good."

Gonzalez's expected absence may not bode well for Alex Wood (11-11, 3.60 ERA), who takes the mound looking for some help. The left-hander has a 2.86 ERA over his last six starts, but he's gone 3-3 because he's been backed by an average of 2.34 runs.

That stretch includes allowing one hit in eight innings of a 2-0 home win over the Rockies on Sept. 16. However, he followed that six days later by yielding two runs and three hits in 6 1-3 innings while the Dodgers were three-hit in an 8-0 defeat to Arizona.

"I feel good," Wood told MLB's official website, which noted that he hasn't thrown bullpen sessions between starts for a month. "I've made a conscious effort during this month to really work on taking care of my body and make adjustments to feel good when I go out there every five days."

Wood was tagged for seven runs and 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings of an 11-3 loss in his most recent visit to Colorado on July 12.

The Rockies are turning to Chris Rusin (5-9, 5.39), who is 0-2 with a 10.38 ERA over his last three starts. The left-hander was hammered for six runs and eight hits while matching his career high with four walks in Tuesday's 6-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

"(Tuesday) was just one of those days that I fell behind hitters and didn't make pitches when I needed to," Rusin said. "When I got behind in the count and had to force myself to throw a strike, I either gave up hits or the balls bleeded through."

Rusin is 0-1 with a 5.73 ERA in two career starts against the Dodgers. He gave up three runs in six innings of a 5-4 win in 16 at Los Angeles on Sept. 15.

Gonzalez is 5 for 8 with two homers, three RBIs and five runs in this series. He's a .383 hitter with 37 RBIs in 43 career home meetings with the Dodgers.