Dodgers avoid elimination behind pitcher's complete game

Sunday, October 10, 2004

LOS ANGELES -- Jose Lima and Shawn Green had big nights, giving the Los Angeles Dodgers their first postseason win in 16 years and staving off elimination in their first-round series against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lima followed two miserable outings by Los Angeles starters with a five-hitter, Green hit a pair of solo homers and the Dodgers beat St. Louis 4-0 Saturday night to cut the Cardinals' lead in the best-of-five NL division series to 2-1.

"It feels great to be in Dodger blue," Lima said. "The fans deserve it."

Working against one of the most formidable lineups in baseball, the animated Lima pitched his first complete game since 2001, striking out four and walking one. It was second shutout of his career.

After he retired the Cardinals in the eighth, the crowd of 55,992 -- largest at Dodger Stadium since Game 2 of the 1988 World Series -- chanted, "Lima, Lima, Lima." The 32-year-old right-hander came out of the dugout to take a curtain call.

"I don't know that you can do it much better," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "That's not bad for someone who came to spring training not guaranteed a job."

Lima signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers last winter.

Tracy said had the Cardinals gotten a runner on base in the ninth, he would have gone to closer Eric Gagne.

It didn't happen, as Lima retired Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen on fly balls and Jim Edmonds on a popup. Lima threw 109 pitches.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Lima didn't throw many balls down the middle.

"We had a lot of trouble getting to the top of the ball, made a lot of outs in the air," La Russa said. "He did a very good job."

Odalis Perez, rocked for six runs in 2 2/3 innings in Tuesday's opener, starts tonight for the Dodgers against Jeff Suppan, trying to force a fifth and deciding game the following night in St. Louis. No NL team has won the division series after falling behind 0-2 since the expanded playoffs began in 1995.

Los Angeles had lost eight postseason games in a row since beating Oakland in the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers were swept 3-0 by Cincinnati in 1995 and by Atlanta the following year, then didn't get back to the playoffs until this year, when they twice lost 8-3 in St. Louis.

Lima pumped his fist, shouted and pointed at teammates in celebration and practically danced off the field after setting the Cardinals down inning after inning. St. Louis led the NL in batting with a .278 average and runs scored with 855.

Lima, 9-1 with a 3.08 ERA at Dodger Stadium this season, faced more than four batters in an inning only once -- when the Cardinals put two on with two outs in the fifth. Losing pitcher Matt Morris grounded into a forceout to end the threat.

"He's been as big an addition to the team as anybody," Green said. "He's a big-game pitcher for the Dodgers, and our goal is to give him another shot to go out there again, and we have to win the next two games for us to do that."

Green hit solo homers off Morris in the fourth and sixth to give Los Angeles a 4-0 lead, with both sending the crowd into a frenzy.

The Dodgers, unable to get the clutch hit in the first two games, got one in the third when Steve Finley hit a two-out, two-run double.

Los Angeles got a big break earlier in the inning. Alex Cora was hit by a pitch and went to third on Brent Mayne's single. It appeared Lima's bunt bounced up and hit his bat as he left the batter's box, meaning it should have been ruled a foul ball or he should have been called out. Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny threw to second, but Mayne was safe, leaving the bases loaded.

"They went and discussed it, and they didn't see it," La Russa said of the umpiring crew. "You can't call it if you don't see it."

Morris retired the next two batters before Finley came through, slicing a broken-bat double inside third. It's his only hit in 12 at-bats in the series.

Green opened the fourth by hitting a 2-0 pitch over the left-center wall and hit the first pitch from Morris over the right field fence with two outs in the sixth.

Morris, pitching for the second time since Sept. 20, gave up four runs and six hits seven innings before being lifted for a pinch hitter. He walked two and struck out five and threw 106 pitches.

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