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Lima Time silences Cardinals10/09/2004 10:48 PM ET
By Ken Gurnick / MLB.com
LOS ANGELES -- From Day 1 of Spring Training, Jose Lima talked the talk and nobody listened. All season he walked the walk and nobody believed.
But as Lima insists, he's no fluke and no phony. The flamboyant right-hander with the broken thumb and unbreakable spirit pitched the biggest game of his life and kept the Dodgers' season alive Saturday night with a 4-0 five-hit shutout over the St. Louis Cardinals in a Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
"The guy's in Independent League and two years later he's in the playoffs pitching a shutout against the best offense in baseball," said veteran Robin Ventura. "That's pretty amazing."
It was the Dodgers' first postseason win since the 1988 World Series and their first postseason shutout since Orel Hershiser blanked the Oakland A's in Game 2 of that World Series. Sandy Koufax, who was in the audience on Saturday night, had a few games like this.
"A pretty remarkable performance," said Dodgers general manager Paul DePodesta. "If he gives you five or six innings like that, it's remarkable, but to finish the job, you can't explain it. That's the beauty of the game."
Steve Finley had a clutch two-out, two-run shattered-bat double in the third inning and Shawn Green slugged a pair of homers, one with two outs to power the Dodgers' offense. Finley cashed in a bases-loaded opportunity set up by a controversial call on Lima's sacrifice bunt.
Knowing a loss meant elimination, Lima worked the corners and enticed the Cardinals into early-count outs. After tallying 99 pitches through eight innings, Lima plead his case to pitching coach Jim Colborn saying, "Let me finish what I started."
His pitch total of 109 was his third highest of the season.
"I'm sure [the Cardinals] are sitting over there thinking, 'How'd he do that?' " said catcher David Ross. "Confidence will take you a long way."
It was Lima's first shutout since 1998, and his first complete game since 2001. It was only the third complete game of the year for the Dodgers (Kazuhisa Ishii had the other two).
"We had [Eric] Gagne ready, but Lima was going to get the chance to finish the game," said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy, who held a rare pregame team meeting in the clubhouse, where Lima promised a victory.
And it was a beauty. Lima tamed a vaunted St. Louis lineup that tormented Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver in Games 1 and 2. He allowed no two-out hits until the eighth inning, while striking out four and walking just one. The exuberant right-hander led cheers, pumped fists, danced and sang and set a playoff record for bilingual interviews.
"If the fans don't get lifted up from this, what do they need, a perfect game or put the club on fire?" Lima said. "I did my homework. I threw strikes. Now we've got a chance."
So Lima, a non-roster invitee who had to fight his way through a crowded roster to make the team out of Spring Training, came up with the franchise's biggest pitching performance in 16 years.
"That's when it happens, when nobody expects it," said Wilson Alvarez. "Most people don't expect Lima to do the job. But he knows how to pitch."
To a man, the Dodgers credited a sellout crowd that Lima worked into a frenzy even before the game started. Dodger Stadium fans adore his unbridled enthusiasm, and Lima has responded with a 10-1 record in their presence.
"The best crowd I've ever played in front of," said Green. "The fans and Lima both fed off each other."
The best-of-five series, led by the Cardinals two games to one, continues with Game 4 on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium. Perez will oppose local product Jeff Suppan. A Game 5, if necessary, would be in St. Louis on Monday.
"In the [first] two games, we got hurt with two out and [Mike] Matheny and [Edgar] Renteria drove in the runs," said Lima. "You can't let them beat you. But I don't want Odalis and Weaver to think I'm pointing fingers. I'm not a bad teammate. I'm not dogging them."
Lima had to make an immediate stand to show the Cardinals that their two-out heroics were over. He responded by striking out Scott Rolen with Tony Womack on third base to end the first inning. He got a double-play grounder from Reggie Sanders to end the second inning and retired the side in order in the third.
In the Dodgers' third, Alex Cora led off and took one for the team, not budging on a 1-2 fastball that nailed his right hand. X-rays of the hand were negative. St. Louis center fielder Jim Edmonds, running slowly after fouling a pitch off his right ankle in the second inning, was unable to get to Brent Mayne's fly to right-center, a single that sent Cora to third.
Lima then bunted in front of the plate, and the replay appeared to show that the ball bounced back up and tapped his bat a second time, which should have resulted in an out. But all the umpire crew saw was catcher Matheny's throw to second that arrived too late to get Mayne.
"The ball never hit me and it never hit my bat," said Lima. "It was a bad bunt. I got lucky."
With the bases loaded and no outs, Cesar Izturis flied out to left and Jayson Werth fouled out. But the Dodgers finally broke through with two outs, as Finley's broken-bat line drive landed just inside the left-field line to plate two runs.
"He threw a cutter that kind of backed up a little bit, but it still got enough on the label to break my bat," said Finley. "I just had good placement on it."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.
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