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Thrill is gone as Dodgers, Angels tie, 2-2

March 28, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

It used to be called the Freeway Series and it was as much a part of the Southland sports scene as Rams football and title fights at the Olympic Auditorium.

The Rams moved to St. Louis in 1995, however, and the Olympic played host to its final sporting event three years ago. And now the three-game spring training series between the Dodgers and Angels appears ready to fade away as well.

"I remember when I first came up, coming to this ballpark and there were 65,000 people here," Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, a former Dodgers catcher, said before his team played the Dodgers to a 2-2, 10-inning tie Thursday night before a crowd of 38,863 at Angel Stadium. "There probably was a little more fan interest just because the Angels and Dodgers were only going to meet if it was in a World Series. Now the fact that we play them during the season has taken a little of the bright light away from what the Freeway Series might have brought."

Indeed, the advent of interleague play a decade ago, which assures the teams will meet six times during the regular season, has stolen much of the thunder from the annual exhibition series, which dates to 1963.

And now, with the Dodgers moving their spring training base to Arizona next year, the Dodgers and Angels figure to face each other at least three more times in Cactus League play.

So if the Freeway Series does live on in Southern California it figures to be in abbreviated form, perhaps as a single exhibition, like this year, or as a two-game home-and-home series, said Angels spokesman Tim Mead.

"With interleague play, it loses some of its luster," said Dodgers Manager Joe Torre.

Of significance Thursday was the work of Angels right-hander Jon Garland, who held the Dodgers to an unearned run in five innings in his final preseason tuneup. For Garland, who will start the second game of the regular season Tuesday, the run is the only one he has allowed in his last 16 innings, a shot in the arm for a team missing its top two starting pitchers to injury.

The Dodgers, meanwhile, watched hobbled reliever Takashi Saito struggle through the fourth inning, his lone inning of work, by giving up two hard-hit balls, including Howie Kendrick's triple off the right-field wall.

By then the Angels had a 2-1 lead, courtesy of a two-run first-inning home run by Vladimir Guerrero, one of eight .300 hitters in their starting lineup.

The Dodgers took advantage of a passed ball and three consecutive singles, the last a run-scoring hit by Chin-lung Hu, to halve the lead in the second.

But they didn't get another man into scoring position until the eighth when James Loney drove in pinch-runner Ramon Martinez with a two-out double to tie the score.

The game was called two innings later by mutual consent, leaving both teams with four ties this spring. In the Freeway Series there have been three ties in the last three years.

Rafael Furcal reached base four times for the Dodgers, walking twice and singling twice to raise his spring average to .365.

Outfielder Andre Ethier, locked in a battle with Juan Pierre for a starting job, had an outstanding night defensively, making a leaping catch at the wall and throwing out two runners, including the potential winning run at the plate in the eighth.

Pierre, meanwhile, went 0 for 5, leaving six runners on base and dropping his average to .179.

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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