DENVER -- It's the norm for the Dodgers offense to depend on Matt Kemp, but Friday night it was all compressed into one incredibly futile ninth inning.
Scratched from the starting lineup with a tight hamstring, Kemp launched a massive solo pinch-homer that sparked a five-run rally -- and it wasn't enough, as the Dodgers lost to the Rockies, 6-5.
Kemp's league-leading 19th homer on a 3-2 pitch off Matt Belisle was measured at 447 feet. It cleared the seats in the left-field bleachers and landed on the concourse, allowing him to trot around the bases without stressing that left hamstring.
"He crushed it, for sure," said manager Don Mattingly. "It's a long way."
Kemp said he felt it tighten when pulling into second base on a double on Thursday night, when he was a single shy of hitting for the cycle. He tried to get the hamstring loose during batting practice, but asked out of the lineup 30 minutes before game time. It bothers him running at top speed, according to Mattingly.
"It feels a little better now, but I can't really tell, it's numb from the ice," said Kemp. "It's just a little tight, nothing too major. We'll see [about playing Saturday], I hope so. I'll try very hard, like I did today. But the way I play center field, to get those balls, it would be bad if something bad happened and it would be a lot more days."
The way the Dodgers aren't scoring runs, anything to keep Kemp off the field is major. He was off the field for eight innings in this game and the Dodgers did pretty much nothing against Jhoulys Chacin, getting no runs on three hits, one of the hits looking more like a Troy Tulowitzki error.
Without Kemp (3-for-20 lifetime against Chacin), the Dodgers fielded a lineup with rookies Dee Gordon and Trent Oeltjen (Kemp's replacement) at the top, and Casey Blake batting in Kemp's cleanup spot. The highest batting average from spots four through nine in the order belonged to losing pitcher .280-hitting Chad Billingsley, who also had hit as many or more home runs this year (one) as four other starters.
So with the Dodgers trailing, 6-0, Mattingly sent Kemp up to pinch-hit with one out in the ninth, mainly to extend Kemp's streak of consecutive games played, now at 269 and currently longest in the Major Leagues.
"He didn't ask, but I knew it was important to him," said Mattingly.
"Definitely cool," Kemp said of his manager. "And I got that at-bat to keep that feel. The way I'm feeling right now, I'm feeling good at the plate."
You think? Kemp is 15-for-29 on the trip with home runs in six of the last seven games.
The one-out homer triggered an impressive Dodgers comeback attempt that included a key error by Chris Nelson (asked to play one inning at third base) and an RBI double by Tony Gwynn, a two-run pinch-single by Aaron Miles and an RBI pinch-single by Rod Barajas off Huston Street (Barajas is now 7-for-11 lifetime off Street).
With the tying run on and two outs, Oeltjen struck out, the second strikeout of an eventful first game for the Thursday callup who also singled, walked, stole a base and committed an error in left field.
"I was sitting on the couch [in the clubhouse], and they start getting base hit after base hit ... and I just start walking, saying, 'Man, come on,' " said Chacin. "But we win, and that's the good thing."
The Dodgers committed two errors (Blake had the other) in the Rockies' five-run fifth inning that chased Billingsley (5-5), who is 1-5 with a 7.88 ERA at Coors Field, even though all six consecutive hits in that fifth-inning rally were singles.
Mattingly said he has no intention of juggling his future rotation to keep Billingsley from pitching in the hitter's park, saying the shuffling would negatively impact the rest of the rotation.
Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt said all pitchers "have to accept the situation here."
A few years back, Derek Lowe didn't accept it. He essentially said he wouldn't pitch in Coors Field and several times was skipped, but Billingsley said the spacious outfield that leaves hitters so much real estate to find hits wasn't the root of his problem.
"It is a little bit, but I left balls over the plate, catching too much of the plate and you're not going to have too much success that way," said Billingsley, who allowed one run on 11 hits to Colorado in Los Angeles last month and five runs on six hits in three innings at Coors Field in April.
Ramon Troncoso provided the Dodgers with a chance to rally. He took over for Billingsley and allowed only one hit over 2 1/3 innings. Since his May 19 callup, Troncoso has pitched nine scoreless innings.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.