DENVER -- Clayton Kershaw struggled at times to find the plate. When he did, the batters had an even tougher time finding the ball.
Kershaw struck out nine in five strong innings, Xavier Paul hit a tie-breaking RBI single in the sixth, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Colorado Rockies 4-3 on Sunday to take the deciding game in the series.
"Any time Kershaw pitches, he's obviously a strikeout pitcher," said Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki. "It's tough to put balls in play against him, and their bullpen is one of the best."
Kershaw (5-3) allowed four hits and two runs. He walked four, had a wild pitch and hit the first batter he faced. But he also was overpowering, striking out the side in the first two innings and matching his season high for strikeouts.
"The first inning was rough," Kershaw said. "Sometimes, it's hard to get going. Luckily after the first, I was able to get down in the zone and make some pitches. Credit the bullpen. They did a great job picking me up. I can't say enough about them."
In all, five Dodgers pitchers notched 14 strikeouts, including one by Jonathan Broxton, who gave up an unearned run in the ninth but still earned his 13th save in 15 chances.
Ian Stewart doubled off Broxton to start the ninth. After pinch-hitter Todd Helton struck out, pinch-hitter Seth Smith reached on third baseman Casey Blake's error. Stewart then scored on Carlos Gonzalez's fielder's choice before Broxton induced a game-ending groundout from Ryan Spilborghs.
"We played pretty good defense and pitched well. That's a testament that good defense wins ballgames and helps the pitching," Paul said. "Both teams did that and that's why the games were so close and so competitive."
The series has been one-sided lately, however.
The win was the Dodgers' 10th in their last 12 games against NL West opponents, and they have the best intradivision record in baseball at 15-5. They have gone 21-7 in their last 28 games against the Rockies, including winning four of the six this season.
"We haven't had such good fortune against them recently," Smith said. "When we play them, we know it's going to be a good game and we're going to be looking to pull it out any way we can."
Jhoulys Chacin (3-3) gave up four runs in 5 1/3 innings. He allowed seven hits, struck out six and walked two.
With the score tied 2-2, Blake doubled to start the sixth. Paul followed with a run-scoring single and went to third on Reed Johnson's single before scoring on Blake DeWitt's fielder's choice to put the Dodgers up by two.
James Loney's RBI double in the first gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead but the Rockies went ahead 2-1 in their half of the inning.
Kershaw hit the first batter he faced, Gonzalez, with a pitch and one out later walked Jason Giambi. Troy Tulowitzki followed with a run-scoring single. Giambi scored from second when second baseman Dewitt lost Chris Iannetta's popup in the sun, and it dropped for an RBI single.
The Dodgers came back to tie it when Kershaw, aboard with a leadoff single, scored on Loney's sacrifice fly.
Following the game, the Dodgers recalled RHP Travis Schlichting from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned Scott Elbert to the Isotopes. ... Dodgers outfielder Manny Ramirez, who turned 38 Sunday, was given a break from the starting lineup but made a pinch-hitting appearance in the sixth and struck out. ... Colorado reliever Huston Street, who's on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation, is scheduled to throw batting practice Monday for Triple-A Colorado Springs. ... Gonzalez, who was hit by a pitch to start the game for the second consecutive game, has scored nine runs in his last five games.