LOS ANGELES -- It took one very impressive rookie right-hander to put the Dodgers in a position to win Monday night against the Rockies. It took another to put the game on ice.
Rubby De La Rosa rewarded his manager's faith in him, making the most of a career-high 113 pitches in the Dodgers 8-5 victory over the Rockies. Then, with the bullpen struggling in the ninth inning, closer Javy Guerra -- whose calling card has become his coolness in tight situations -- retired the Rockies' four and five hitters on four pitches with the bases loaded.
Manager Don Mattingly -- forced to use the young Guerra for the third straight game -- was all smiles following the game, shoving aside some bullpen issues because of a third straight Dodgers win.
"You'd rather be on this side than the other side," he said. "There's really no moral victories."
Unless you win the game, of course. Then every positive is a moral victory, and perhaps the biggest one of all on Monday was De La Rosa's continued dominance, despite his inability to go deep in ballgames. He allowed three hits and a run in six innings and has allowed just seven earned runs in his last five starts.
Mattingly has been hesitant to compare De La Rosa to the staff's ace, Clayton Kershaw, for fear of putting expectations that are too high on the 22-year-old. Nonetheless, he has noted De La Rosa has the chance to be equally dominant, and after the game he said so far he's on the right track.
"It's gonna be growth," Mattingly said of De La Rosa's ability to eventually work deeper into games. "He's gonna be getting better. Clayton was the same way. He went about 100, threw five or six every time out. Then he found the strike zone more, got ahead in the count. It's just growth."
De La Rosa's solution to his high pitch count was simple: "Don't walk people." He allowed four of the Dodgers' season-high nine walks, but he added he's feeling better every start, as Mattingly said.
"I'm witnessing my progress and working harder to keep progressing," De La Rosa said.
Second in the league in innings pitched before the game, Kershaw will get the ball Tuesday, which could aid a bullpen that has been overworked of late. Mattingly won't mind having played three straight close games because they've all been victories, but they will limit his options. Guerra has pitched in all three and red-hot Kenley Jansen has pitched in three of four.
Monday didn't have to be as taxing on the bullpen as it was, the Dodgers carrying an 8-1 lead into the ninth inning. But Hong-Chih Kuo and Mike MacDougal allowed four runs and loaded the bases for Rockies cleanup man Troy Tulowitzki.
MacDougal has struggled with inherited runners this season, but more pressing is Kuo, who hasn't done his job in three straight outings. He missed six weeks earlier this season because of an anxiety disorder, but Mattingly said his recent struggles -- which included three runs, two walks and a pitch that sailed to the backstop on Monday -- are physical rather than mental.
"I guess you could always be worried about it," Mattingly said of the troubles creeping back into Kuo's mind. "But I don't know how much good it's gonna do me ... You just look at it as a single outing."
The three straight appearances were a first for Guerra. He was needed after the typically sure-handed second baseman Jamey Carroll booted a ground ball and then threw wide to first base. Guerra didn't seem to mind being called upon so late in the game.
"I'm always staying aware of the game situation," Guerra said. "I never want to get caught not being ready. It doesn't take me long to warm up. I had plenty of time tonight. It wasn't an issue."
He induced a high pop from Tulowitzki and ended the game getting Seth Smith to bounce out weakly to second.
"My ball was up and I took an aggressive swing at it," Tulowitzki said. "I've hit that ball before. Then Seth ended up grounding out and they got out of a jam."
Andre Ethier, whose power numbers have been down a bit this season, gave the Dodgers the lead in the third inning with a two-run home run into the right-field pavilion. He also singled home a run in the Dodgers' three-run eighth -- which proved to be crucial insurance runs and not meaningless tack-ons.
"I thought we just wanted to get Guerra's save numbers up," Ethier quipped after the game when asked about the Rockies' failed comeback attempt.
Ethier, like Mattingly, happily ignored questions about the late rally, choosing to focus on the win instead.
"It's our fault offensively," he joked. "We rely too much on our bullpen. Every time they come in to pitch it's usually a one- or two-run game. They probably didn't have as much intensity seeing a seven-run lead on the board. You can blame the offense on that one."
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.