DENVER -- It was better for Rockies relief pitcher Esmil Rogers that he didn't know how daunting his assignment was Monday night.He faced loaded bases and baseball's hottest hitter, the Dodgers' Matt Kemp, in the seventh inning. But Rogers struck out Kemp with a curveball to end a seven-pitch at-bat and played a key role in an inning full of clutch bullpen work that helped the Rockies earn a 6-2 victory at Coors Field in front of 25,227. In the first inning, Kemp blasted a pitch from Rockies starter Juan Nicasio (2-0) the opposite way into the right-field stands for his 12th home run and 25th RBI in the season's first month. Rogers, trying to protect a 5-2 lead in the seventh with the bases loaded and no outs, said he didn't look at the stats. At least his brother, onetime Orioles infielder Ed Rogers, let him know facing Kemp was special. "My brother asked, 'Who's coming to the next series?' and I said the Dodgers," Rogers said. "He said, 'Oh, my, Matt Kemp. I said, 'Why do you say that?' "He said, 'He's breaking the league right now.' "I said, 'Don't worry about it.'" Nicasio had held the Dodgers to two runs on nine hits in six strong innings but gave up consecutive singles to open the seventh, and Rogers promptly walked Mark Ellis to load the bases. After Rogers faced down Kemp, left-hander Rex Brothers used a 2-2 slider to strike out Andre Ethier, who at 24 RBIs is almost as hot as Kemp. Finally, Edgmer Escalona forced pinch-hitter Juan Rivera into a popup into short left. It took strong pitching, especially the seat-of-the-pants bullpen work, and timely hitting -- Carlos Gonzalez, Troy Tulowitzki and Ramon Hernandez drove in two runs apiece -- for the Rockies (11-11) to reach .500 and prevent the Dodgers (16-7) from setting a franchise record for April victories. "We played a wonderful game, and I tip my cap to those three bullpen members that did the job that they did in the seventh inning," Rockies manager Jim Tracy said. Nicasio shook of the Kemp homer, struck out four and battled through a season-high 115 pitches against a difficult Dodgers lineup. A rookie whose 2011 season was cut short when he was hit by a line drive and suffered a broken neck on Aug. 5, Nicasio has joined veteran Jamie Moyer to form the steadiest pair of starters in a rotation that's been affected by inconsistency and Jeremy Guthrie's recent shoulder injury. "He needs to give us innings, keep us in the games, do the things he's been doing since he's come back from his injury; that's all we're asking any of them to do," Tracy said. In the seventh, Tracy, knowing his bullpen was depleted because the previous two starters lasted just five innings, tried to squeeze a little more out of Nicasio. But Jerry Hairston's two-strike single and Dee Gordon's first-pitch single forced Tracy to the bullpen. Right-handers Matt Belisle and Josh Roenicke were not available because of recent usage. Rogers had either pitched or warmed up five of the last six days, but he was there when the Rockies needed him. He and Brothers were also going to be used against no more than a couple of batters. How good has Kemp been? He went 1-for-4 and dropped to a still other-worldly .417. "We didn't get the job done, and that's it," said Kemp. "They got us out." Brothers had a slump earlier in April, but his strikeout of Ethier was his eighth in the last three games, covering 3 1/3 innings. Escalona struck out two and walked one in 1 1/3 hitless innings, and Rafael Betancourt struck out one in a perfect ninth in a non-save situation. Gonzalez' fielder's-choice RBI grounder, two batters after Marco Scutaro's first-inning leadoff single against Aaron Harang (1-2), answered Kemp's homer in the top of the inning. Tulowitzki's double drove in Jonathan Herrera, who had singled to open the fourth, and Gonzalez, who had walked. Hernandez added a sacrifice fly later in the fourth, and an RBI double off Harang in the sixth. "Early in the game, I was more aggressive," said Harang. "Once I get to the third time around, I got a little tentative. ... I have to make an adjustment." Gonzalez knocked an RBI single off Mike MacDougal in the seventh to give the Rockies a 6-2 lead. Gonzalez leads the team with 18 RBIs, including 13 in the last seven games.
Thomas Harding is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Hardball in the Rockies, and follow him on Twitter @harding_at_mlb. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.