(Sports Network) - The Colorado Rockies' postseason hopes may now be a longshot, but the franchise has an opportunity to have the first 20-game winner in its history in tonight's opener of a three-game series with the Los Angeles Dodgers from Coors Field.
Losses in six of their last seven contests have put the Rockies in a very tough spot in regards to reaching the playoffs for a second consecutive season. After dropping two of three tests at home in a critical weekend set with National League West front-runner San Francisco, Colorado now finds itself four games behind San Diego for the lead in the league's wild card standings with only seven to play.
"To lose two out of three in a big series is tough," Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki said after Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Giants. "At the same time, anything can happen."
The Rockies were stymied by San Francisco's Matt Cain in yesterday's rubber match, with the standout pitcher taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning in leading his club to victory.
Jay Payton spoiled Cain's bid with a one-out infield single in the bottom of the eighth. Two batters later, Melvin Mora smacked a home run over the center- field wall to bring Colorado within 4-2.
That was as close as the Rockies would get, however, as Cain allowed just one baserunner the rest of the way in going the distance.
Jorge De La Rosa (8-6) worked the first six innings for Colorado and was reached for three runs on four hits and walked five batters.
Ubaldo Jimenez will try to revive his team's fading playoff chances tonight, when the All-Star hurler seeks to join Philadelphia's Roy Halladay and St. Louis' Adam Wainwright in the NL's 20-win club this season.
The NL Cy Young candidate sports a 19-7 record with a 3.00 earned run average in 31 starts, although he's lost five of his past seven decisions following a sensational 17-2 beginning to the year and has surrendered four runs or more in three of his four most recent assignments. He's coming off one of his shortest efforts of 2010, a four-inning stint last Wednesday in which he permitted five runs and walked four in a setback at Arizona.
Jimenez did beat the Dodgers in Los Angeles in his previous start, but gave up four runs in 6 1/3 innings and got plenty of offensive support in a 7-5 verdict on September 17. The hard-throwing righty had lost in both of his two prior encounters with the Dodgers this season, and is 6-5 with a lackluster 5.27 ERA in 15 career appearances (14 starts) against LA.
A return home may help Jimenez get back on track and reach the milestone, as he's compiled a 9-1 record and 3.23 ERA in 14 Coors Field starts this year.
He'll be taking on a Dodgers squad that's a poor 6-15 since September 4 and just lost the final two matchups of a three-game series in Arizona. Los Angeles failed to hold on to a late three-run lead in Sunday's finale, with the Diamondbacks scoring four times in the bottom of the eighth inning to pull out a 5-4 decision.
Tony Abreu brought Arizona within 4-3 with a two-run homer off George Sherrill in the eighth, and Kelly Johnson followed with a single to put the potential tying run aboard. Chris Young then greeted reliever Jonathan Broxton (5-6) with a home run to left to put the Diamondbacks in front.
The bullpen's breakdown ruined a sensational performance from Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley, who yielded just one run on four hits and matched a career best with 13 strikeouts in seven innings.
"The loss doesn't mean as much as Billingsley coming away empty-handed," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre. "He battled his tail off."
Rod Barajas finished 2-for-4 for Los Angeles and had given his team a short- lived 4-1 advantage with a two-run homer in the top of the eighth. James Loney had a two-RBI earlier on for the Dodgers.
Torre will send the struggling Ted Lilly to the mound for tonight's opener. The midseason acquisition is 0-4 with a 6.91 ERA over his past five starts after winning his first five outings since coming over in a late-July trade with the Chicago Cubs.
Lilly's slide began with a rough showing at Coors Field back on August 29, with the veteran lefty battered for eight runs and nine hits -- including two homers by Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez -- in four innings of a 10-5 setback. Two starts earlier, however, he fired a two-hit shutout and registered a season-best 11 strikeouts to best Colorado at Dodger Stadium on August 20.
The 34-year-old did have a solid effort in his most recent start, holding San Diego to three runs and striking out eight in seven innings despite coming out on the short end of a 3-1 decision last Wednesday.
Lilly, who hasn't lost five straight decisions since pitching for the New York Yankees in 2001, is 4-2 with a 5.20 ERA in seven lifetime starts against Colorado.
The Dodgers have won eight of 15 meetings with the Rockies so far this season, but Colorado has prevailed in four of the last five matchups. The two NL West foes have split six games held in Denver in 2010.