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Lofton's RBI single in ninth vaults Dodgers into first

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- On a team saturated with impressive rookies,
Kenny Lofton has become an inspiration on and off the field for the
Los Angeles Dodgers.

Lofton singled home the winning run in the bottom of the ninth
inning and the Dodgers moved into first place in the NL West,
defeating the Colorado Rockies 4-3 Thursday night.

"He's been around long enough to know how to play the game and
he's been on teams that have won, so it's nice to have him,"
Dodgers reliever Brett Tomko said. "He's usually the guy who gets
traded for the stretch run. He knows what he needs to do to help
the team, whatever it is."

The Dodgers, whose 11-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss
Wednesday night, are a half-game ahead of San Diego and Arizona.

This is the first time the Dodgers have had sole possession of
first place since June 26. They were as many as 7½ games off the
pace on July 26 after losing 13 of 14 games following the All-Star
break.

Jose Mesa (0-5) gave up a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Julio
Lugo and a single to Rafael Furcal before Lofton sliced a 2-0 pitch
to left field for the game-winner. Takashi Saito (4-2) got the
victory despite giving up the tying run in the ninth.

Dodgers rookie Andre Ethier extended his hitting streak to 14
games with a tiebreaking solo homer in the eighth inning against
Ray King, after Colorado manager Clint Hurdle brought in the
left-hander to replace impressive rookie reliever Manny Corpas.

"We had that inning drawn up as soon as the inning started,"
Hurdle said. "We were get let Corpas pitch to (Jeff) Kent and have
King come in to face Ethier. Ethier hadn't hit a home run all year
off a left-hander, and King hadn't given up one to a lefty all
year. Obviously, it didn't work -- and it didn't work in the ninth,
either."

Kings acknowledged that he made the wrong pitch.

"Tonight was a lesson I learned," King said. "I looked at
tape of him, and he's a kid who's diving the whole time, so I threw
a fastball away and he beat me. So from now on, no matter how many
more times I face him, he's going to have to beat me on a pitch
in."

The Rockies made it 4-all in the ninth when Todd Helton tripled
over the head of right fielder Jason Repko and continued home when
Kent's throw to third skipped into the dugout for an error. The
blown save was the first in 13 opportunities for Saito, who
replaced the injured Eric Gagne as closer.

For the second time in this four-game series, a Rockies pitcher
was ejected after Hurdle removed him from the game. King, who was
upset about a previous pitch to Wilson Betemit, held both arms out
to the side -- before and after Huddle made the pitching change --
and was tossed by plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt. On Monday night,
Sam Holbrook ejected Josh Fogg under the same circumstances.

"I guess I looked at him the wrong way," King said. "I didn't
say a word to him. Before that, I asked him, 'Where was that
pitch?' and he got all bitter about it. The manager comes out and
tells me, 'Don't say a word.' I didn't say anything and I still get
tossed."

Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley allowed a run and three hits
over five innings, struck out three and escaped a bases-loaded jam
in the third. All of his six walks came during a span of 10
batters, but none of those baserunners scored.

The Dodgers took a 2-1 lead in the fifth on Nomar Garciaparra's
sacrifice fly, but Colorado tied it in the sixth against reliever
Aaron Sele with a two-out RBI double by Sullivan.

Garciaparra, who came in 4-for-20 lifetime against Colorado
starter Jason Jennings, singled his first two times up. But in the
seventh, he flied out to end the inning after a pair of two-out
walks.

Furcal led off the Dodgers' first with a triple and scored on
Lofton's groundout. The Rockies tied it in the second when Matt
Holliday led off with a drive that struck the right-field pole. It
was the 21st homer this season for the first-time All-Star, who
ended an eight-game RBI drought.

Game notes
With Gagne, fellow reliever Yhency Brazoban and OF Jayson
Werth on the disabled list for the rest of the season, the Dodgers
have only eight players on their 25-man roster who played for them
last season. ... Helton reached on a strikeout-wild pitch in the
seventh. It was the 37th wild pitch by the Dodgers' staff, one more
than their entire total last season.