Dodgers monthly recap10/02/2004 7:20 PM ET
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
The Dodgers got off to a good start in 2004, winning their first four series and finishing the month tied for first in the NL West. Highlighting the month was a 6-3 trip to San Diego, San Francisco and Colorado which featured a month-best five-game winning streak. The Dodgers swept a three-game series at defending NL West Champion San Francisco from April 16-18, the Dodgers' first sweep at San Francisco in four years. Third baseman Adrian Beltre showed early signs of the type of season he was going to have when he homered in three consecutive games (April 18-21) for the first time in his career. Another player who quickly showed improvement in his offensive game was shortstop Cesar Izturis, who fashioned a career-best 14-game hitting streak. The Dodgers batted .282 as a team, an encouraging sign for a team that batted a league-low .243 in 2003. Five different batters hit better than .300 for the Dodgers: Beltre (.353), Jose Hernandez (.333), Izturis (.329), Paul Lo Duca (.416) and Robin Ventura (.385). Kazuhisa Ishii got off to a great start again, going a team-leading 4-1 and tying for the most innings pitched (31.2).
The Dodgers clung to first place in the division despite their losing month. When L.A. completed a six-game winning streak on May 12, they stood at 22-10, the best record in the Majors. Unfortunately, the team followed the winning streak with an eight-game losing streak which was its longest since June 1992. The pitching settled down in May as the team posted a 3.33 ERA and nine of the 12 Dodgers pitchers to see action in the month had an ERA under 3.00. The Dodgers scored more than a run less in May than in the first month of the season, yet still batted .264. Beltre continued to be productive with a .283 average and a team-leading five home runs and 16 RBIs. Second basemen Alex Cora (.369) and Jose Hernandez (.405) sparked the Dodgers offense with a combined five home runs and 12 RBIs. Eric Gagne was nearly perfect, going 1-0 with a 0.79 ERA in 11 games with six saves and 20 strikeouts in 11.1 innings. Five different Dodgers hurlers picked up two wins during the month.
The Dodgers had their worst month of the season and lost five games in the standings to the Giants to finish June 3 1/2 games behind San Francisco. Beltre showed no signs of slowing down as he carried the offensive load, leading the Dodgers for the month in average, hits, runs, home runs and RBIs. Ishii went 3-0 in his five starts to run his record to 9-3. Izturis hit .275 for the month and ran another career-high hitting streak to 15 games before going hitless on June 9. It was the longest hitting streak by a Dodgers shortstop since Greg Gagne also hit in 15 consecutive games in 1997. The defense continued to be a strength as the team committed just nine errors in the month and took over the Major League lead in fielding. When the Dodgers defeated the Yankees on June 20, they completed the three-game series with the largest three-game series attendance total (165,240) in Dodger Stadium history. The 5-4 win that day was also the 300th in manager Jim Tracy's career. Eric Gagne converted all seven save opportunities, posting a team-low 1.64 ERA and running his converted save streak to 82.
The Dodgers enjoyed an outstanding month of July, going 21-7, the best record in the NL and went from a season-high 3 1/2 games behind at the start of the month to 2 1/2 games ahead by the conclusion of July. The team's .750 winning percentage was the Dodgers' best month of July since 1962, when they had a .769 winning percentage (20-6). It was also tied for the third best month of July in franchise history. From July 3-20, the Dodgers went 14-1, which included an eight-game winning streak from July 10-20. The Dodgers
won eight of their final nine prior to the All-Star break to take a half-game lead and then swept a six-game road trip to Arizona (4-0) and Houston (2-0) to begin the second half. In half of the games during the month, L.A. tallied at least six runs and held the opposition to three runs or less 16 times. The team took bold moves at the trade deadline, acquiring pitcher Brad Penny, first baseman Hee-Seop Choi, outfielder Steve Finley and catcher Brent Mayne for the 25-man roster. The Dodgers also purchased the contract of reliever Giovanni Carrara at the start of the month and he made an immediate impact, going 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA.
With the additions of Brad Penny, Steve Finley, Brent Mayne and Hee-Seop Choi via trade and the recall of rookie reliever Yhency Brazoban, the Dodgers started the month wining seven of their first nine games to open a 7 1/2-game lead. Penny dazzled in his first start on Aug. 2 vs. Pittsburgh, allowing just two singles in eight shutout innings, but would injure his bicep in his next start and pitched only once over the remainder of the season. Finley fit into his new surroundings, leading the Dodgers with 25 RBIs and batting .337 for the month. Beltre put his name near the top of the list for MVP consideration as he batted .362 with 24 RBIs and a Major League-leading 13 home runs in August. Jeff Weaver went 4-0 with a 2.30 ERA in the month to push his record (12-10) over .500 for the first time since May 15, 2003. Veterans Olmedo Saenz and Robin Ventura provided offense off the bench, with Saenz hitting .450 for the month, including a 4-for-6 mark as a pinch-hitter and Ventura batting .286, including a 3-for-7 ledger with a home run when called on as a pinch-hitter.
The Dodgers won their first West Division title since 1995 when they defeated the San Francisco Giants in dramatic fashion on Oct. 2 with a seven-run ninth inning, highlighted by Steve Finley's walkoff grand slam for a 7-3 victory. The Dodgers entered the month with a 5 1/2-game lead and saw it shrink to just a half-game on Sept. 22, but won seven of their next 10 games to clinch the title. Six of those victories were come-from-behind wins, and the Dodgers ended up setting a franchise record and tied for the fifth-most since 1940 with 53 comeback wins. The starting pitching which struggled early in the month with 10 starts of less than five innings from Sept. 10-27, finished strong by not allowing more than three earned runs in the final six games for a 2.61 ERA. Beltre was named NL Player of the Month as he hit .321 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. Finley added punch to the lineup with 21 RBIs and a team-leading eight homers during the month. Brazoban played a key role as he led the team with a 6-2 record in the final month. No other Dodgers pitcher won more than two games.
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