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Van Poppel, three relievers get job done

5/16/2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Todd Van Poppel is paying more attention to
the mental aspects of being a starting pitcher.

Van Poppel combined with three relievers on a six-hitter and Ken
Griffey Jr. hit a two-run homer, helping the Cincinnati Reds beat
the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-0 Saturday night.

The right-hander pitched six innings and allowed five hits while
striking out one and walking one in his second start. He was added
to the rotation Monday after the Reds released Jimmy Haynes. In his
first start, Van Poppel gave up two runs and three hits in four
innings against San Francisco and did not get a decision.

"The last couple of years I've been trying to stay on top of
the mental part of the game. That's the most important part for
me," Van Poppel said. "When I'm out there, I'm trying to just
think about what pitch I'm going to throw and how I'm going to get
that guy out. It's as simple as that.

"Tonight I made some good pitches when I needed to in order to
get some groundballs. I think that was probably the most
groundballs I've ever gotten in my entire life. I don't try to ever
give in."

The Dodgers found that out the hard way. Van Poppel (2-1)
stranded a runner at second in four of the first five innings, and
another at third in the sixth by striking out major league batting
leader Paul Lo Duca, who entered the game averaging only one
strikeout for every 65.0 plate appearances.

"I got away with one," Van Poppel said. "I was trying to
throw him a fastball in and the fastball ended up going away. So I
got lucky and he swung and missed. That was a big out."

John Reidling walked his first two batters after relieving Van
Poppel, but losing pitcher Odalis Perez bunted into a force at
third and Jason Grabowski grounded into a double play to end the
Dodgers' seventh-inning rally.

Todd Jones worked the eighth and let two runners on in the ninth
before Danny Graves got the final out for his major league-leading
16th save.

Griffey drove in Cincinnati's final two runs with his eighth
homer and 489th of his career, an opposite-field drive just inside
the left-field pole with two outs in the eighth after a leadoff
single by pinch-hitter D'Angelo Jimenez. Griffey is two behind Fred
McGriff for 21st place on the all-time home run list.

"Anybody who's sneaking up on 500 home runs is obviously a
pretty darn good player," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. "The
unfortunate thing for Griff is that he's been hurt a lot the last
couple of years with significant injuries. But he's still not a guy
you like to see coming to the plate with the game on the line, I
can tell you that."

The Reds scored their first run against Perez with help from a
Dodger Stadium security guard.

Ryan Freel sliced a pitch down the right-field line with one out
in the third, and the ball skipped into foul territory and hit a
chair that the slow-reacting employee wasn't able to move before
Shawn Green got there. Freel made it all the way to third with his
fourth triple of the season and scored on Barry Larkin's groundout.

Juan Castro singled in the fifth and scored from second when
Perez (2-2) fielded Freel's squib hit to the right of the mound and
made an errant underhand toss to first base while falling down.

Freel made an all-out effort on Lo Duca's foul fly to right
field in the sixth, hurtling himself into the stands and
disappearing into a sea of Dodgers fans. His knee accidentally
struck an elderly woman in the head and it affected him the rest of
the game.

"I feel so bad," said Freel, who gave the woman a bat after
the inning was over. "I don't think she could have gotten out of
the way if she wanted to. As aggressive as I play, I just wanted to
take it back and do it over again.

"It wasn't a pretty sight. She was in a daze, and my heart
really just dropped. I just kept apologizing to her and praying
that she was all right. I kept looking over there between pitches
and her son gave a thumbs-up to somebody that she was going to be
OK."

The woman was taken to County USC Medical Center for evaluation.

Perez pitched eight innings, allowing four runs -- three earned --
and six hits. He struck out five and walked one. The left-hander
became the 307th different pitcher Griffey has homered against.

"The pitch to Griffey was a very good pitch," Perez said. "It
was a fastball away, but he's got enough power to hit it out of the
ballpark."

Game notes
An MRI taken on the sore left shoulder of Dodgers RF Juan
Encarnacion was negative, but he missed his second straight game.
... Cincinnati 1B Sean Casey missed his second game because of a
sore left thumb.