Reporting from Denver -- It's hard to figure out the Dodgers sometimes. No major league team save the Washington Nationals has made more errors, and yet the Dodgers' defense saved them Sunday.
"Whatever," catcher Russell Martin said. "We made plays when it counts."
That they did, with two more errors and an assortment of highlight-reel plays in a 4-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies. Clayton Kershaw struck out nine in five innings, four relievers held the Rockies to one hit over the final four innings, and the Dodgers returned home two games out of first place in the National League West.
"Really good team victory," center fielder Matt Kemp said. "Good pitching, good defense."
Highlight-reel defense, five times.
In right field, Xavier Paul crashed into the wall to take an extra-base hit away from Carlos Gonzalez. At second base, Blake DeWitt charged a slow grounder and threw across his body to deprive Jhoulys Chacin of an infield single, and Jamey Carroll made a terrific diving stop to turn a would-be single into a force play.
No gems were more important than the ones in the fifth inning, when the Rockies might well have blown Kershaw out of the game.
With the score tied, 2-2, Gonzalez led off the fifth with a single. Ryan Spilborghs lined a drive into the left-center field gap, but left fielder Reed Johnson ran far and wide to catch the ball. That could have been a double, and a run.
Jason Giambi popped up for the second out, then Kershaw walked Troy Tulowitzki on five pitches. Kershaw threw two strikes to Brad Hawpe, then walked him too, loading the bases.
Chris Iannetta lined a drive into the right-center field gap, but Kemp ran far and wide before making a diving catch. That could have been a double, and two runs, with the runners moving with two out.
At that point, Kershaw was done, five innings and 97 pitches into the game.
"He was just muscling it at that point," Manager Joe Torre said.
Kershaw won anyway, for the fourth time in five starts.
"Give the credit to the bullpen," he said. "They picked me up. I can't say enough about them."
The Dodgers could not say enough about their defense, either, on a day they committed two more errors.
"Everybody makes mistakes," Kemp said. "We can't go error-free."
Shortstop Rafael Furcal committed one error, his fifth in five starts since the Dodgers activated him from the disabled list. Larry Bowa, who coaches the infielders, said he plans to work with Furcal on his footwork.
"Raffy's feet right now are a little bit messed up," Bowa said.
Casey Blake had a ground ball scoot between his legs for his ninth error, the most of any third baseman in the league.
"I'll take two out, ninth inning, seventh game of the World Series and the ball hit to him," Torre said.
What made the defensive spectacular so intriguing was that Kemp and DeWitt were the only regulars on the five-highlight reel. Manny Ramirez would have had no chance at the ball Johnson caught.
How good are the Dodgers on defense?
"I know we're capable," Torre said. "The fact we haven't played well defensively at times is bothersome. I don't think it's a chronic problem."