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Dodgers Like the View From Atop the Rockies

Baseball: Gagne, Carrara play key roles again in 3-1 victory over Colorado that pulls L.A. to within half-game of first in West.

July 27, 2001|BILL SHAIKIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Andy Ashby went down. So did Darren Dreifort and, after him, Kevin Brown. Chan Ho Park was the last man standing.

"When we started the season, we had four No. 1s," Dodger catcher Chad Kreuter said. "Now we have one No. 1."

That new math makes it difficult to fathom the standings, but there it is, in black and white: The Dodgers are a half-game out of first place in the National League West.

The Dodgers traded for veteran starter James Baldwin Thursday, but how about a tip of the cap to the unsung pitchers who kept the team close enough to first place that Baldwin could matter? Eric Gagne and Giovanni Carrara, two of the more anonymous arms of summer, carried the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies before 32,750 Thursday night at Dodger Stadium.

The honor roll includes Gagne and Luke Prokopec, who have won 10 games between them. It includes Terry Adams, a setup man-turned-starter with six victories. It includes rubber-armed reliever Matt Herges, whose eight victories are exceeded only by Park's 10. It includes journeymen Carrara and Dennis Springer, who started two games and returned to the minor leagues Thursday.

"Half the team is missing," reliever Jesse Orosco said, "and we've just been picking each other up."

Gagne, who has won all three of his starts since the Dodgers recalled him from triple-A Las Vegas 12 days ago, shut out the Rockies for the first six innings. When he lost the plate in the seventh, walking home a run and walking the bases loaded with one out, Carrara relieved Gagne and retired pinch-hitters Larry Walker and Greg Norton without further scoring.

Carrara got four outs, Orosco one and Jeff Shaw the final three--for his league-leading 30th save--as the Dodgers won for the 11th time in 13 games.

"We've had Terry Adams and Chan Ho and everybody else . . . Springer stepped it up, and now we've got Baldwin," Gagne said. "It's going to be a lot of fun."

The Dodgers got three runs in the first inning, thanks in part to two Colorado errors, and failed to score thereafter.

"We did just enough offensively to win the game," Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said. "Eric Gagne and our relief corps did an outstanding job."

Gagne was brilliant for the first six innings, facing one batter over the minimum. Alex Ochoa singled in the second inning, but catcher Paul Lo Duca threw him out trying to steal. Ben Petrick doubled with two out in the fifth inning, but he was stranded at second base.

Yet Gagne did not survive the seventh. Terry Shumpert doubled to start the inning, and Todd Helton walked. After Jeff Cirillo flied out, Gagne walked Ochoa and then Petrick, the latter walk forcing home a run. Tracy removed Gagne, who had thrown a modest 87 pitches.

"I don't know that he was necessarily out of gas," Tracy said. "It seemed like he had lost focus for a couple batters. When he walked the run in, that in itself was a mental breakdown, and I didn't want him to go any further."

Carrara replaced Gagne, striking out Walker--the most significant out of the game--and getting Norton to ground out.

The Dodgers are not the only team making trades these days. The Rockies deployed their new double-play combination for the first time Thursday--and, well, it can only get better.

The new Colorado second baseman is Jose Ortiz, acquired from Oakland in the three-team trade that sent outfielder Jermaine Dye from Kansas City to the A's. The new Colorado shortstop is Juan Uribe, promoted from triple-A Colorado Springs after the Rockies traded Neifi Perez to the Royals.

Lo Duca scored the Dodgers' first run when Ortiz dropped a relay from the outfield for an error, and Gary Sheffield scored the Dodgers' third run when a ground ball caromed off the leg of Uribe for an error. Colorado starter Denny Neagle, who lasted 5 2/3 innings, was charged with two earned runs.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Stretch-Drive Pitcher

James Baldwin has been a much better pitcher in August and September two of the last three seasons, so the Dodgers might be getting him at the right time. A look:

*--*

Year Before Aug. 1 After Aug. 1 1998 6-4, 6.12 ERA 7-2, 4.03 ERA 1999 4-11, 6.38 ERA 8-2, 3.18 ERA 2000 12-4, 4.44 ERA 2-3, 5.24 ERA Total 22-19, 5.57 ERA 17-7, 3.97 ERA

*--*

*

WHO THE DODGERS GAVE UP

* Gary Majewski, 21, Class-A Vero Beach: 4-5, 6.24 ERA.

* Onan Masaoka, 23, triple-A Las Vegas: 8-4, 5.55 ERA.

* Jeff Barry, 32, OF at Las Vegas: .290, 12 homers, 42 RBIs.

Houston Mitchell

*

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