DENVER -- Say what you will about the Colorado Rockies -- and they are a beaten-down team at the moment -- but unless you can abide by the arcane rules at their highly skewed ballpark, they can easily beat you.
They might be the worst team in the National League, by a lot, but they've got as many home wins as the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers, who fell into the Coors Field trap in a major way Tuesday night, stumbling in their march to the postseason.
Walking the leadoff hitter in the first inning and falling into an early hole, exposing the soft underbelly of your middle bullpen and having your worst at-bats just when innings are beginning to crescendo is not exactly the way to go at altitude, and the Dodgers did all of the above in a 10-4 loss to the Rockies.
Not all their wounds were self-inflicted. That aforementioned leadoff walk came on a pretty good 3-2 pitch, on the corner at the knees by Dan Haren, but plate umpire D.J. Reyburn called it a ball. Four innings later, he would call a nearly identical pitch a strike on Yasiel Puig to strand two runners. The inning after that, he would call a nearly identical pitch on Puig a strike again, this time stranding three runners.
"I don't think it does a bunch of good to talk about the umpiring, really," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "If one thing's going to cost you a game, you didn't play that good. I feel like we had our chances."
Said Haren, who threw out his hands after the walk: "The guy had a pretty generous strike zone for most of the night except for that one."
It seems as if that early noncall led to a cascade effect and a truly bad-luck loss: The Dodgers outhit Colorado 16-9.
"It was a kind of weird game, with how many hits we were getting, and they were able to capitalize on everything," Haren said.
But teams that lament their bad luck usually do so in the comfort of the offseason, and the Dodgers don't have time for self-pity. Not with only 11 games left, one of which starts bright and early Wednesday, and their fate still firmly in their clutches. They lost a game in the standings to the San Francisco Giants, who now trail by three, and got no closer to clinching a postseason berth since the Milwaukee Brewers won. They also lost a little ground in their secondary race, to the Washington Nationals for home-field advantage throughout the NL playoffs.
Still, there were things to like in defeat. The offense has looked more menacing lately. Puig hit his first home run in a month and a half. Justin Turner continues to be the surprise contributor of 2015. Much of the damage Colorado did was against relievers whose status on the potential postseason roster was tenuous to begin with. It could have been an entirely different outcome if Turner hadn't grounded into a double play in the fourth or if third-base coach Lorenzo Bundy hadn't waved Turner home in the sixth as Turner tried to score from second on a double to center. He was thrown out easily -- not even Rule 7.13 could save the Dodgers this time -- or the Dodgers might have had their second consecutive massive sixth inning. They scored eight runs in Monday's sixth inning.
"That's probably one we'd like to have back, with the score right there," Mattingly said.
Even Haren's outing wasn't as bad as it appeared. He allowed only five baserunners in five innings, but all of them scored. Two of those runs came on a majestic, arcing Corey Dickerson home run that thwacked off the steps in the right-field stands and nearly bounced into the second deck. Haren's counterpart, Tyler Matzek, allowed 12 base runners in 5⅓ innings, and only two of them scored. It's fair to say Haren, if his career continues past his Dodgers days, won't be looking to sign in Colorado. His career ERA is 5.56 here.
With Hyun-Jin Ryu dealing with a sore shoulder and questionable to pitch again in 2014 and Roberto Hernandez far from a sure thing when he takes the mound lately, Haren still looks as if he could have a role in the playoffs. He'll certainly have a role the remainder of this season. His next start is Sunday at Wrigley Field, and he might have one more beyond that, depending what the Dodgers do around their Sept. 25 open date. Odds are, he'd go into the playoffs as the team's No. 3 starter.
"I expect to be called upon at some point if we do get there, and I've got to be at my best," Haren said.