Dodgers 4, Cardinals 0
It was a long time coming -- 16 years, to be precise. The Los Angeles remained alive in the National League Division Series, beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 4-0, on the strength of a five-hitter by Jose Lima that gave the Dodgers their first postseason win since the 1988 World Series.
"It feels great to be in Dodger blue," Lima said. "The fans deserve it."
The win curbed the Cardinals' lead in the series to 2-1 with Game 4 on Sunday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers perfected the art of the comeback during the regular season, setting a franchise record with 53 come-from-behind wins and earned their trip to this postseason thanks to a seven-run rally in the ninth inning against the rival San Francisco Giants that gave them the NL West title.
But no last-minute magic was required Saturday, thanks to Lima and two solo home runs from Shawn Green.
Working against the team that led the NL in batting with a .278 average and runs scored with 855, Lima pitched his second career shutout, striking out four and walking one.
Larry Walker, Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen, the Cardinals' 2-3-4 hitters, went a combined 0 for 12. Jim Edmonds, who bats fifth, had two hits, as did leadoff hitter Tony Womack.
"I tried to keep at least one of those guys off base," Lima said of the Cardinals' heavy hitters. "I tried to stay away from big innings."
The pitching performance was a complete about-face by the Dodgers, who had seen starters Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver shelled for 16 runs and five home runs in the first two games of the series.
"It's an outstanding pitching performance," Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa said of Lima. "They needed it, and he did a very good job."
The Dodgers' offense came alive in the third inning when catcher Brent Mayne muscled a single to right to advance Alex Cora, who was on first after being hit by a pitch on his right hand.
Lima, 9-1 during the regular season at Dodger Stadium, laid down a controversial bunt to load the bases. La Russa argued the ball struck Lima while he was in the batter's box and should have been called out. First base umpire Bruce Dreckman disagreed, ruling the ball fair. That loaded the bases for Steve Finley, whose broken-bat double gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead and Lima all the support he would need.
The right-hander only needed 11 pitches to retire the Cardinals in order in the top of the fourth. Green kept the Dodgers' momentum with a leadoff home run in the bottom half of the inning to straightaway center to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead and added another in the sixth to make it 4-0.
After he retired the Cardinals in the eighth, the crowd of 55,992 -- largest at Dodger Stadium since Game 2 of the 1988 World Series -- chanted, "Lima! Lima! Lima!" He came out of the dugout to take a curtain call.
"I don't know that you can do it much better," Dodgers Manager Jim Tracy said. "That's not bad for someone who came to spring training not guaranteed a job."
Perez, rocked for six runs in 22/3 innings in Tuesday's opener, starts Sunday night for the Dodgers against Jeff Suppan. If the Dodgers win, a fifth and deciding game will be played Monday night in St. Louis. No NL team has won the division series after falling behind 0-2 since the expanded playoffs began in 1995.
News services contributed to this report.