(Sports Network) - With their already-slim playoff chances beginning to fade even further, the Colorado Rockies will attempt to get themselves back on track in tonight's clash with the Los Angeles Dodgers from Coors Field.
Colorado had vaulted itself back into postseason contention by winning 13 times in a 15-game span from September 3-18, but losses in seven of the team's last eight contests have just about ended the Rockies' hopes for a second straight playoff berth. The club trails Atlanta by 4 1/2 games for the lead in the National League Wild Card standings with only six to go in the regular season, and is five games back of front-running San Francisco for first place in the West Division.
The Rockies' latest setback took place in last night's opener of this three- game series, as the Dodgers received eight outstanding innings from Ted Lilly and made an early lead stand up in a 3-1 triumph.
Lilly (9-12) was brilliant in ending a personal four-decision losing streak, with the midseason acquisition limiting Colorado to a run and four hits while striking out eight batters before turning the game over to Hong-Chih Kuo. The All-Star reliever promptly retired the side in order in the ninth to register his 11th save of the year.
"He commanded all his pitches," Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta said of Lilly. "He was ahead of most of the guys."
Casey Blake went 3-for-4 for Los Angeles and gave his team a quick 2-0 advantage with a two-run single in the top of the first inning. A.J. Ellis added an RBI base hit in the ninth to help the Dodgers stop a two-game skid.
Ubaldo Jimenez (19-8), seeking to become the first 20-game winner in Rockies history, pitched well but was outdueled by Lilly. The standout righty was reached for two runs on a pair of hits and walked two in the opening frame, but gave up only hit and two more walks over the remainder of his seven-inning stint.
"He's had an outstanding season. You want to see him get his 20th [win], but not against us," said Blake of Jimenez.
The Rockies turn to Jeff Francis tonight in hopes of staying alive in the playoff chase, while the struggling lefty will be trying to improve off a pair of lackluster outings in which he hasn't lasted more than 3 2/3 innings.
Francis returned from a month-long stay on the disabled list with a sore arm to throw 62 pitches in three innings against San Diego on September 13, permitting two runs and five hits and taking a loss in a 6-4 Colorado setback. He delivered a similar line in his follow-up start, surrendering three runs and six hits before exiting after 3 2/3 frames of a road defeat to Arizona on Thursday.
The native Canadian, who missed all of 2009 while recovering from shoulder surgery, has gone 4-6 with a 4.71 ERA in 18 starts this season and lost in his only 2010 encounter with the Dodgers. That took place at Coors Field on May 28, with Francis reached for five runs and a pair of homers in 5 1/3 innings.
In 15 lifetime starts against the Dodgers, Francis is 5-4 with a 3.05 ERA.
Los Angeles counters with Hiroki Kuroda, with the Japanese veteran seeking to avenge a loss at the hands of the Rockies earlier this month. The right-hander allowed five runs (three earned) in six innings during a 7-5 Colorado triumph at Dodger Stadium on September 17.
Kuroda bounced back strongly in his subsequent trip to the mound, yielding only one run and five hits over eight strong innings to defeat playoff-hopeful San Diego last Thursday. The effort lowered his ERA to 2.57 in 13 starts since the All-Star break.
The Rockies have been a problem for Kuroda ever since he left Japan for the major leagues prior to the 2008 campaign. The 35-year-old is 0-4 with a troublesome 6.25 ERA in seven career meetings with Colorado and has been tagged for 12 runs (10 earned) and 19 hits in just 10 innings in losing both of his previous Coors Field starts.
The Dodgers have won nine of 16 overall meetings with the Rockies so far this season, including four of seven games held in Denver. Colorado has prevailed in four of the last six matchups, however.