The Dodgers of September will look a lot like the Dodgers of August, much to the chagrin of those who had hoped General Manager Dan Evans could complete a last-second trade to bolster the worst offense in the National League.
But if the Dodgers of September can maintain the stifling pitching and timely hitting on display Sunday during a 3-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies before 41,146 at Dodger Stadium, then perhaps there will be Dodgers of October for the first time since 1996.
Odalis Perez and two relievers combined on a six-hitter as the Dodgers completed a three-game sweep of the Rockies but failed to complete a deal to add firepower to their underachieving offense on the last day that teams could add for the playoff roster.
The Dodgers had claimed Pittsburgh outfielder Reggie Sanders off waivers earlier in the day but were unable to work out a trade, and Sanders, who has 29 home runs and 76 runs batted in with a .284 average, remained a Pirate. Evans said he could not comment on specific players but confirmed that no trade was made with the Pirates or any other team.
"It wasn't a lack of effort," Evans said. "Our staff worked real hard for the last couple of weeks targeting clubs, but there was no deal to be made. One of the issues we're fighting here is that really no club has fallen out of the chase for the postseason since the July 31 trading deadline. The landscape really hasn't changed a whole lot.
"We really tried to do everything we could.... but for whatever reason the other club just wasn't motivated to move the player."
Evans said the Dodgers would continue to pursue trades that could help the team during its playoff push over the final 26 regular-season games, but any players acquired this month would be ineligible for the playoff roster.
There was better news for the Dodgers on the field. Perez, Tom Martin and Eric Gagne increased the Dodger pitchers' consecutive scoreless streak to 23 innings while completing their second sweep of the Rockies this season at Dodger Stadium.
Gagne pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 54th consecutive save dating to last season, tying him with Tom Gordon for the major league record. Gagne has saved 46 games this season, compiling a 0.39 earned-run average in save situations.
The Dodgers, who posted a second consecutive shutout victory for the first time this season, surged into third place in the National League wild-card standings but remained 1 1/2 games behind co-leaders Philadelphia and Florida.
Evans said he remained convinced the Dodgers possessed enough talent to make a successful postseason push.
"I think anytime you're as deep as we are pitching-wise, we definitely have the talent," Evans said. "When you're a game and a half out, pitching is the game in September. We certainly learned that last year when we lost three starters in the last month. When you have healthy starting pitching and a bullpen as talented as ours, you've got to be confident you have the talent."
Perez (11-10) pitched seven scoreless innings to rebound from his worst start of the season, when he gave up 10 runs in 4 2/3 innings last week during an 18-4 loss to Houston. Dodger Manager Jim Tracy said Perez mixed his pitches more effectively and used both sides of the plate, but Perez said he had trouble getting called strikes on the outside corner.
The Dodgers, held scoreless through six innings, put runners on first and third in the seventh when Paul Lo Duca reached on an error and went to third on Shawn Green's single through the hole on the right side.
Adrian Beltre and Ron Coomer each popped out to shortstop Juan Uribe before Jeromy Burnitz provided a clutch run-scoring double over the head of leaping left fielder Jay Payton. Jolbert Cabrera followed with a two-run double.
"We made the most out of the four hits that we got," Tracy said. "To pick up two huge two-out hits after failing a couple of times in situational at-bats is a very positive sign."
Gagne, given three runs to work with, issued a one-out single to Rene Reyes in the ninth before striking out pinch-hitter Greg Norton and retiring pinch-hitter Larry Walker on a grounder to short to end the game.
"The team plays eight innings in front of me and I just want to go out there and do my part," Gagne said.
NL Wild Card
*--* W L GB Florida 73 63 -- Philadelphia 73 63 -- DODGERS 71 64 1 1/2 Houston 71 65 2 Arizona 70 66 3 Montreal 71 67 3 Chicago 69 66 3 1/2