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Ross' two-run homer beats Rockies

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- David Ross has been a huge disappointment
offensively for the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. On Thursday
night, he was a hero.

Ross, who came to the plate batting just .169, hit a two-out,
two-run homer in the 11th inning and the Dodgers beat the Colorado
Rockies 4-2 to clinch no worse than a tie for a playoff berth.

"It feels good, really good, for me to get a big hit and help
the club," Ross said. "I've been working hard. It finally paid
off. I haven't helped the team offensively all year and I finally
did tonight."

Ross hit a 2-1 pitch from Steve Reed that bounced off the top of
the left field wall and went over after Alex Cora was hit by a
pitch from Brian Fuentes (2-4). It was Ross' first at-bat of the
game, fifth homer of the year and first since Aug. 11.

"He was due," Dodgers closer Eric Gagne said with a smile.
"He knows how to hit and we all know that. He kept working hard.
He's a hero today -- he deserves it. It couldn't happen to a better
guy. And by the way, I called it."

Said Ross, grinning: "I'm glad he has confidence in me."

The Dodgers, who had rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the 10th
inning, mobbed Ross at the plate and the sellout crowd of 53,438
stood and cheered for several minutes. The cheers got louder when
Ross came out of the dugout to acknowledge the fans.

"It was a great feeling, seeing all those guys at home plate,"
Ross said. "He hung me a slider and I got enough of it."

Said Reed: "I didn't think it was right down the middle or a
hanger. Obviously, I caught too much of the plate with it. He just
hit it and beat me. It's frustrating, after we hung in the game
like that."

Los Angeles (92-67) leads San Francisco (89-70) by three games
in the NL West entering a season-ending, three-game series between
the teams at Dodger Stadium starting Friday night. The Giants need
a sweep to force either a one-game playoff, which would be played
Monday in San Francisco, or win the division based on a 10-9 season
record against Los Angeles if Houston loses at least once.

"I want them to see us clinch," Gagne said of the Giants.
"The good thing is that they're going to see us clinch against
them. It's going to be amazing and a lot of fun -- especially for
the fans, they'll be able to see us do it against the hated
Giants."

Yhency Brazoban (5-2) blanked the Rockies in the top of the 11th
to earn the victory. He threw a called third strike past Royce
Clayton with runners at first and third to end the inning.

That set the stage for Ross, who entered the game as a defensive
replacement at catcher in the 10th.

"I couldn't be happier for that young man because of the hard
work that he puts in and the effort that he gives," Dodgers
manager Jim Tracy said. "It's just terrific."

Colorado took a 2-1 lead in the 10th on Jeromy Burnitz's
two-out, RBI single off Gagne, who was pitching one day after
receiving a cortisone injection for stiffness in his pitching
shoulder. Gagne, who muttered to himself as he walked off the
mound, is 7-3 with 45 saves in 47 chances.

The Dodgers tied it in the bottom half off Chin-hui Tsao when
Hee-Seop Choi doubled, took third as Tsao threw wildly to first on
Cesar Izturis' sacrifice bunt and scored on Jayson Werth's
forceout.

Second baseman Aaron Miles made a diving catch of Adrian
Beltre's liner with two outs and a runner at second to end the
inning.

Colorado took a 1-0 lead off Jose Lima in the fourth on
consecutive one-out singles by Brad Hawpe, Jorge Piedra and J.D.
Closser.

Los Angeles tied it against Jason Jennings in the seventh when
Shawn Green doubled, took third on a single by Robin Ventura and
scored on Alex Cora's grounder to second. Jennings retired Izturis
on a fly to right with runners at second and third to end the
inning.

Pitching on his 32nd birthday, Lima allowed eight hits in seven
innings. He is 9-1 with a 3.08 ERA at Dodger Stadium this season.

"There's just some magic here in this clubhouse," Lima said.
"This is a special group. The way that we're doing it, it's like
we don't want to give up. This is probably the best birthday gift
of my whole career because we won and I helped the team. I brought
my `A' game today, I came to pitch."

Lima said he kissed Ross on the forehead before the 27-year-old
catcher hit the game-winning homer.

Jennings gave up seven hits in eight innings, striking out six.

Game notes
When Colorado's Todd Helton hit an RBI double Wednesday
night, it enabled him to become the first big leaguer to hit at
least .315 with 25 homers and 95 RBI in each of his first seven
full seasons. He went 3-for-3 with two walks Thursday night,
raising his batting average to .348. He has 32 homers and 95 RBI.
... Colorado starters allowed one earned run in 25 1-3 innings
after Beltre's grand slam off Shawn Estes in the third inning
Monday night. ... The comeback win was the Dodgers' 52nd of the
season, tying the franchise record set in 1953 when the team played
in Brooklyn.

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On the Net:

Colorado Rockies: http://rockies.mlb.com

Los Angeles Dodgers: http://dodgers.mlb.com

Major League Baseball: http://www.mlb.com