Gagne still perfect in saves, thanks to D


LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Eric Gagne usually bails out the Dodgers.
This time, he needed his teammates' help to preserve his
consecutive saves streak.

Wilson Alvarez and Gagne combined on a seven-hitter, and Robin
Ventura homered as Los Angeles defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks
2-0 Thursday night.

Gagne got the first two-inning save of his career, although he
nearly blew it in the eighth when the tying run was thrown out at
the plate. Shawn Green and Alex Cora combined on a flawless relay
that saved Gagne.

It was his 52nd consecutive save this season, and his major
league-record 60th in a row dating to Aug. 28, 2002.

"Pretty exciting," Gagne said, smiling. "I had a lot of
energy going on, maybe I had too much. I wasn't focused enough. I
just needed to go out there and get my mind straight."

The Dodgers are 2{ games behind Florida in the NL wild-card
race. Los Angeles plays seven of its final 11 games against NL West
champion San Francisco, beginning Friday at home.

"A game that we absolutely had to have was won in dramatic
fashion," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "We pretty much rode
the home run by Robin Ventura all night long."

Alvarez (6-1) blanked the Diamondbacks on four hits over seven
innings, extending his scoreless streak to 22 innings. The
left-hander struck out four and walked one in winning his fourth
straight start. He shut out San Diego on four hits last Friday.

"He's been throwing the ball really well for us all year, and
he just picked us up again," Gagne said. "It's just a huge win."

Tracy thought Alvarez got away from throwing first-pitch
strikes, and Gagne hadn't pitched since Monday so the manager
brought him in early.

"I was ready for it," Gagne said. "I got my shoes tied and I
was ready to go."

The Diamondbacks, who had won four in a row against the Dodgers,
nearly tied it in the eighth.

Gagne gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga,
and Steve Finley doubled just inside the right-field line with one
out. Green made a strong relay throw to Cora, who cut down
pinch-runner Craig Counsell at the plate.

Junior Spivey struck out to end the threat.

"It was an awesome play by Greenie," catcher Paul Lo Duca
said. "Down in those corners, they're so tricky. The ball came off
clean, he made a great relay and AC made a great throw. Everything
was executed perfectly."

In the ninth, Gagne retired pinch-hitter Felix Jose with runners
at second and third to finish it.

"That's more noise than we've made against Gagne in three years
combined," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said.

Miguel Batista (10-9) gave up one run on four hits in seven
innings. He struck out four and walked one.

The Dodgers made it 2-0 in the eighth. Dave Roberts walked,
stole second and scored from there on first baseman Shea
Hillenbrand's throwing error on Cesar Izturis' grounder.

Ventura started at first base in place of Fred McGriff, who got
the night off.

Ventura didn't waste any time making his presence felt. He led
off the second with his fourth homer of the season, hitting a 1-0
pitch into the right-field seats for a 1-0 lead.

"The way Wilson's been pitching, he's been able to work with
that," Ventura said. "We squeezed another one across. That helps
us out when Eric comes in."

Ventura played solid defense, too, turning a double play to end
the sixth. Luis Gonzalez hit a shot down the first-base line that
Ventura picked up and fired to Cora, who threw back to Ventura in
time to get Gonzalez.

Game notes
It was the Dodgers' major league-leading 16th shutout of
the season. ... Alvarez's streak of 22 scoreless innings is the
longest by any Dodgers pitcher this season. ... The Dodgers began
Thursday 3{ games behind Florida in the wild-card race. In 1965,
they were 3{ behind San Francisco on Sept. 18 and went on to win 11
straight and 13 of their final 14 games to clinch the pennant by
two games. The Dodgers beat Minnesota in seven games to win the
World Series. ... Jolbert Cabrera started for Roberts in center,
although he entered in the eighth when Cabrera moved to left field
to replace Jeromy Burnitz. ... The Dodgers took a 48-47 lead in the
all-time series between the teams.