LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Eric Gagne's streak of 84 consecutive saves ended against the same team he couldn't hold off two years ago: the
Eric The Great?
It couldn't last forever, of course. Before Eric Gagne, no major league pitcher had ever converted more than 54 straight save opportunities, let alone more than 84 (as Gagne would have, had he been successful Monday night). It's my guess that Gagne's record will last for quite a long time, considering how far he surpassed Tom Gordon's previous record.
But now the question is, how great will Gagne be? Will he be merely great, like Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman and Billy Wagner? Or will he continue to be Eric Gagne great, and wind up as the greatest closer of the Closer Era? We'll know in 10 years. -- Rob Neyer
Gagne's major league-record streak ended Monday night when he blew a two-run lead for the Los Angeles Dodgers, who came back to beat Arizona 6-5 in 10 innings.Gagne relieved with a 5-3 lead at the start of the ninth but
allowed pinch-hitter Luis Gonzalez's RBI double and Chad Tracy's
run-scoring single on an 0-2 pitch that went past the glove of a
diving first baseman Olmedo Saenz. Both hits came off changeups."I never really thought about the streak at all," Gagne said.
"I'm not really relieved about it, but it was so much fun to be a
part of it."Realizing that Gagne's streak was over, the crowd of 32,929 at
Dodger Stadium gave Gagne a standing ovation as he stood on the
mound with his head down."He had a great run," Gonzalez said. "The Dodgers have had a
great run of pitchers with streaks -- Orel Hershiser with his
scoreless inning streak, and this one with the saves."Gagne did a fantastic job, but finally we got over the hump to
get him to blow a save out there. There was one team out there that
was eventually going to break it."Dave Roberts singled in the 10th off Greg Aquino (0-1), making
his second big league appearance. Cesar Izturis sacrificed, Milton
Bradley was intentionally walked, and Adrian Beltre walked, loading
the bases.Randy Choate relieved and gave up Shawn Green's sacrifice fly.
Alex Cora looks back toward Eric Gagne after he failed to make a play on a ball that allowed the tying run to score in the ninth inning Monday.
"That's about as untouchable a streak as what DiMaggio did,
Orel, Cal Ripken ... There's not much you can say," Green said.
"It's not something that's going to last forever. It just seems as
if it will."Giovanni Carrara (1-0) got the win by getting the final out of
the 10th.Gagne had not blown a save chance since David Dellucci hit a tying double on Aug. 26, 2002."I would think that everybody would want to be the one that
broke the streak," Tracy said. "I mean, you know about the
success he's had. But if you're intimidated, you're done already. I
know that he likes to throw that changeup, and it's tough to stay
back on when you see 97."During the streak, Gagne blew the lead in the 2003 All-Star game
when he allowed a home run to the Texas Rangers' Hank Blalock, but
that exhibition game didn't count in the statistics.Gagne's record was 30 more than the previous mark of 54, set by
Tom Gordon for Boston from April 19, 1998 to June 5, 1999.The Montreal native set the mark Sept. 2 against Houston, part
of his perfect 55-save season last year. He has 21 this season."I've got a job to do tomorrow. You can't worry about today,"
Gagne said. "You've got to start all over every day."Arizona's Steve Finley hit his 20th homer, a three-run shot in
the third inning. Olmedo Saenz hit a three-run homer for the
Dodgers, and Milton Bradley hit a two-run drive.
Wilson Alvarez of the Dodgers allowed three runs and five hits
over six innings in his first start since May 23. Alvarez was back
in the rotation because of Hideo Nomo's rotator cuff injury.Arizona's Brandon Webb gave up three runs, three hits and three
walks in 5 2-3 innings with seven strikeouts. He is 0-3 in six
starts since June 3.Bradley's third-inning homer, the first off Webb in 41 innings
since Beltre connected on May 29, pulled the Dodgers to 3-2, and
Los Angeles went ahead in the sixth when Saenz greeted reliever
Scott Service with his second pinch-homer this season.It stayed 5-3 until the ninth, when fans had no reason to
suspect that Gagne wouldn't hold this lead the way he had 84 times
before.He was cheered when the streak ended, again when he came off
after getting the last two outs, and once more when he took a
curtain call."The fans are so proud of what I've been doing," Gagne said.
"They come out every single game and they're really into it, so I
just tried to give back to them because they've been really good to
me. The fans are the reason why I've been able to go four or five
days in a row. They get me up."
Three of Gagne's five blown saves are against the
Diamondbacks. ... Arizona RF Danny Bautista left in the seventh
because of stiffness in his lower back. ... Los Angeles manager Jim
Tracy said he expects Nomo to be sidelined at least through the end
of July. ... RF Juan Encarnacion sat out his second straight game
because of a sore left shoulder, and C Paul Lo Duca was scratched
due to soreness in his hip.