Guerra earns most surprising save yet in 8-5 victory

Ah, the simple pleasures of watching the Dodgers roll off a three-game winning streak without worrying it will lead Ned Colletti to make a desperation trade to win the National League West.

OK, maybe not so simple.

We’ve entered the frontier of Losers’ Dividend country, where the good is usually a wonderful surprise and the bad is mostly a mere shrug. But then again, even the Losers’ Dividend would have had a hard time writing off what nearly became an epic ninth-inning collapse tonight.

Los Angeles took an 8-1 lead over Colorado into the ninth inning, then needed Javy Guerra to record the final two outs with the tying run on base to preserve an 8-5 victory. So the biggest celebration of the night ended up being not having to feel more 2011 desolation.

The Dodgers remained 13 games behind San Francisco. So no, still not contending – though they did move to within 1 1/2 games of Colorado for third place.

From the third inning on, when Andre Ethier hit a two-run homer (his sort-of-long-awaited 10th) to break a 1-1 tie, until the ninth, when Hong-Chih Kuo once again struggled mightily (17 pitches, 12 balls), it couldn’t have been breezier. Mike MacDougal (two walks and a hit) and Jamey Carroll (throwing error) then compounded the interest, with MacDougal walking Todd Helton with the bases loaded to force in the fourth run of the inning with just one out.

But Guerra, who was supposed to have the night off, looked every bit the reliable closer in rescuing the Dodgers, retiring Troy Tulowitzki and Seth Smith on a total of four pitches, giving him saves in three consecutive games and the team lead with eight.

Ethier reached base four times in the game and finished with three RBI thanks to a bloop single in the Dodgers’ three-run eighth. Tony Gwynn Jr., Aaron Miles and Carroll (off the bench) each added two hits, while Matt Kemp singled and was walked twice.

After allowing a second-inning run, Rubby De La Rosa shut down the Rockies as he eked out six innings on 113 pitches, striking out five, walking four and allowing three singles. He lowered his ERA to 3.49. Relievers Matt Guerrier and Kenley Jansen struck out five combined in two innings.

Unfortunately, tonight’s outing will renew questions about Kuo’s ability to pitch for the Dodgers this season.

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