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Dodgers Keep Brave Front

Baseball: Perez has another strong outing and Jordan homers in 4-1 victory over Padres.

April 21, 2002|GARY KLEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The undisputed ace of the Dodger staff pitching staff was put on the disabled list before Saturday night's game against the San Diego Padres.

But Kevin Brown's absence does not mean the Dodgers are without a dominant presence.

Left-hander Odalis Perez came within an out of pitching his first career shutout and his second consecutive complete game as the Dodgers defeated the Padres, 4-1, before 41,000 at Dodger Stadium.

Perez, 23, gave up one run, six hits, struck out five and walked two in 82/3 innings before Giovanni Carrara came in with two runners on and retired pinch-hitter Ray Lankford on a fly ball to the center-field wall for his first career save.

Perez (2-1), who pitched his first complete game against the Colorado Rockies last Monday at hitter-friendly Coors Field, narrowly missed becoming the first Dodger to throw consecutive complete games since Brown accomplished the feat with three in a row in 2000. When Bubba Trammell singled in Phil Nevin from third base with two out in the ninth, Perez fell short of throwing the first shutout by a Dodger since Chan Ho Park beat the Milwaukee Brewers, 1-0, last July 18.

Still, it was another impressive outing for Perez, who lowered his earned-run average to 2.15.

"This is the year I've been looking for," said Perez, who was acquired from the Atlanta Braves in the trade for outfielder Gary Sheffield last January. "I'm the No. 3 pitcher here. I know I'm going to pitch every five days. The responsibility is bigger now."

Brian Jordan, also acquired in the Sheffield deal, hit a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole in the fourth inning, Cesar Izturis had a run-scoring double in the fifth and Shawn Green blasted a 433-foot home run into the right-field pavilion in the eighth as the Dodgers won their fourth game in a row and improved to 11-7.

The Dodgers conclude their brief four-game home stand against the Padres today before departing for a six-game trip to Pittsburgh and Chicago. They will not have the services of Brown, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list.

But the Dodger pitching staff has been humming along since being swept in a season-opening series against the San Francisco Giants. With Perez's performance Saturday, Dodger starters have a 2.60 ERA. They have not given up an earned run in seven of the last 15 games and have given up two earned runs or fewer in 13 of their last 15 starts.

Perez threw 116 pitches, including 22 first-pitch strikes.

"He's aggressive, he goes after people. He just doesn't go after the middle of the plate," Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said.

The Padres were impressed too.

"You've got to be patient with a guy like that," Nevin said. "He was hitting with the fastball and the change-up. We helped him out a little bit, but he threw a good game."

Perez lost his bid for a shutout with two out in the ninth when Nevin hit a grounder that bounced past Izturis at shortstop for a single. The game appeared to be over when Ryan Klesko hit a pop fly ball to right field, but the ball fell behind second baseman Mark Grudzielanek for a single to put runners at first and third. Bubba Trammell followed with a bloop single to right to make the score 4-1.

Tracy said before the game that he would not hesitate to use closer Eric Gagne for a fourth consecutive night if the situation warranted, but with Perez cruising along, it was Carrara who warmed up and got the call.

Lankford, pinch-hitting for Deivi Cruz, hit Carrara's second pitch deep to center field. Marquis Grissom drifted back to the wall and caught the ball to preserve the victory.

"I didn't think he hit it that hard," Carrara said, "but it scared me."

For the first time in five games, the Dodgers did not score in the first inning. Padre starter Bobby Jones (1-1) held them at bay until the fourth when Paul Lo Duca set the table for Jordan with a one-out double into the right-field gap. One out later, Jordan stepped in and took a strike before belting a shot down the left-field line. The ball crashed into the foul pole for Jordan's second homer and a 2-0 lead.

A sacrifice bunt by Perez helped set up Izturis' RBI double into the gap in the fifth, giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead, and Green produced the Dodgers' final run with his third homer, a one-out shot in the eighth against Matt DeWitt.

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