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Tracy Sweeps Away the Bad News

Despite three Helton homers, Colorado's third consecutive romp, 12-5, and discouraging injury news, Dodger manager spins it his way.

May 30, 2003|Mike DiGiovanna | Times Staff Writer

DENVER — The Colorado Rockies had just finished putting the Dodgers through the wringer, completing a three-game sweep with a 12-5 sudsing of the Dodgers before 27,007 in Coors Field on Thursday, but the spin cycle was just beginning in the Dodger manager's office.

The Dodgers arrived in Colorado on Monday with a 10-game winning streak and a rotation that had combined for a 10-0 record and a 1.63 earned run average in 10 games. They left with a three-game losing streak and a rotation that had just given up 18 earned runs in 11 innings against the Rockies for a 14.73 ERA. Todd Helton was the primary offender Thursday with three home runs and six runs batted in.

The Dodgers came to Denver in relatively good physical shape. They left with Odalis Perez, who gave up a career-high nine runs on 11 hits in three innings Thursday, nursing a blister on the middle finger of his pitching hand; pitcher Darren Dreifort slowed by an arthritic right knee, center fielder Brian Jordan out because of a stiff neck and badly bruised left hand, and reserve outfielder Daryle Ward sidelined by a sore right hand.

But that was hardly enough to sour the mood of Manager Jim Tracy, who makes motivational guru Anthony Robbins look like a pessimist.

"You don't look at this as a momentum-killer," Tracy said. "If you said 13 days ago that we'd win 10 of the next 13, would you take it? If you said we'd shave six games off the [National League West] lead and were going home to play nine games, would you take it?

"You never like to get swept, none of us do, but you deal with it and move on.... We can't look at this as being swept. We have to look at it as a six-game road trip [to Milwaukee and Colorado] that we split."

But the final three games of the trip raised some questions: Were consecutive rocky starts by Kazuhisa Ishii, Dreifort and Perez a rotation aberration or an indication that baseball's best starting staff is beginning to crack? Do the Dodgers have the depth to overcome all their nagging injuries?

Leaving Colorado and returning home for three games against lowly Milwaukee should help, but the scene in the rearview mirror wasn't pretty. The Dodgers actually banged out 14 hits Thursday but were overwhelmed by the Rockies, who got Helton's power, plus a career-high five hits, including two doubles, and four runs from leadoff batter Ronnie Belliard.

The Dodgers scored twice in the top of the first, but Helton's two-run homer off Perez tied it in the bottom of the first. A four-run outburst in the third inning and three more runs in the fourth salted the game early for the Rockies, who enjoyed their first three-game sweep of the Dodgers at home.

Perez first experienced blister problems in his start at Milwaukee last Friday. The blister returned in the second inning Thursday and worsened in the third and fourth, when Perez gave up home runs to Jay Payton and Helton.

"I pitch off my changeup, and if that's not working, there's no way I'm going to throw a good game," Perez said. "They're a good-hitting club, and if you make mistakes, you're going to pay for it."

Colorado right-hander Scott Elarton, who sat out the 2002 season because of shoulder surgery, gave up three runs on eight hits in five innings but got his first major league win since May 6, 2001.

Dodger closer Eric Gagne, who hadn't pitched in seven days, gave up his first homer of the year, Helton's two-run shot in the eighth.

"This park makes a huge difference," Dodger right fielder Shawn Green said. "You can't expect [the pitchers] to go out every day and give up one or two runs."

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