DENVER (AP) — As usual, the Los Angeles Dodgers got power and production up the middle. For once, center fielder Matt Kemp wasn't the one doing the heavy lifting.
Catcher A.J. Ellis homered and drove in three runs, shortstop Dee Gordon hit his first major league home run and second baseman Mark Ellis had four singles and made the game-saving play in the ninth inning to preserve a 7-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday night.
Their contributions helped Ted Lilly (3-0) pick up the win despite a shaky performance by the Dodgers bullpen. Lilly pitched six solid innings, allowing two earned runs on four hits, but he left after throwing just 79 pitches because of a stiff lat muscle.
"We just didn't want to push it too far," said manager Don Mattingly, who watched his bullpen fritter away almost all of the 7-2 lead Lilly left his relievers.
Javy Guerra struck out Carlos Gonzalez with the potential tying run 90 feet away to end it.
"That was fun," Mattingly said. "That's the way it's supposed to be, right? CarGo with the game on the line?"
The Dodgers pounded out 11 hits off Rockies right-hander Jhoulys Chacin and then held on. The win capped a big day for the storied franchise, marking the end to the tumultuous Frank McCourt era.
The $2 billion sale of the team to Guggenheim Baseball Management, a group that includes former Los Angeles Lakers star Magic Johnson, was finalized Tuesday, just hours before the Dodgers improved to an NL-best 17-7.
"I think the fans of L.A. are pretty excited about the new ownership and what it's bringing. As long as L.A. is happy, I'm happy," Kemp said.
The Dodgers were even happier after this latest display of pinpoint pitching from Lilly and power at the plate that has propelled them to their best start since 1983.
Even with a 7-0 lead after five innings, they weren't exactly comfortable at Coors Field, however.
"Every inning we'd come in and say we need more runs, we need more runs," Mark Ellis said. "Nothing against our pitchers. That's just the way this is. And then that wind starts blowing a little bit and you know we need to score some more runs. And we held on."
Thanks in large part to the second baseman's play that robbed Marco Scutaro of a tying single up the middle with one out in the ninth and Wilin Rosario on second base.
"Just good scouting, I guess," Todd Helton said.
That, and tough luck.
Mark Ellis was shading toward the bag while jockeying with Rosario before the pitch, and then the thick grass slowed the ball down enough for him to make the play to throw out Scutaro and keep Rosario at third.
After falling behind Gonzalez 2-0, Guerra threw a backdoor slider and two cutters to strike him out.
The dramatic ending was a fitting bookend for the Dodgers. Gordon led off the game with his first career homer, a second-deck shot to right field.
"He was talking all day how he was going to hit a home run," Mark Ellis recounted. "And then he goes out there and hits a home run. It wasn't a short one, either. It was a bomb, too. He called it."
Gordon was surprised that his double-play partner revealed that bit of banter.
"I kind of hinted to Mark," clarified Gordon, who was homerless in his first 311 career at-bats. "I can swing the bat. I've got power. I just try to get on base, hit steady line drives, but he gave me a pitch that I could hit."
How could a guy who's generously listed at 160 pounds and who had never hit a home run in the majors be so sure of his power?
"Because I know me. I know what kind of power I possess. I've lived with me for 24 years," Gordon replied. "So, I just try to do what I can to get on base and I happened to hit a home run."
Lilly downplayed the strained lat muscle that cut his outing short. He called the injury "very minor" and said he hoped it wouldn't force him to skip a side session or his next start.
Chacin (0-3) gave up a career-worst seven earned runs. After allowing Gordon's homer and Andre Either's three-run shot in the first, he gave up an RBI double and a two-run homer to A.J. Ellis and left trailing 7-0 after 4 2-3 innings.
Lilly's only mistake was a fat fastball that Gonzalez sent into the right-field seats for a two-run homer, his fifth, in the sixth inning that made it 7-2.
The Rockies tagged Josh Lindblom for three runs on four hits in the seventh and Todd Helton made it 7-6 with a sacrifice fly in the eighth.
NOTES: Over the last two seasons, Lilly is 4-0 with a 2.75 ERA in five starts against Colorado. ... The rubber game of the series Wednesday pits Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw (2-0) against Drew Pomeranz (0-1).
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.