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Giants match best start in team history (9-1)

4/11/2003

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Kurt Ainsworth's rookie season is off to an
encouraging start. In fact, it's almost as impressive as the San
Francisco Giants' record.

Ainsworth pitched shutout ball into the ninth inning as the
Giants matched the best start in franchise history with their ninth
win in 10 games, 2-1 over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday
night.

The right-hander gave up six hits, retiring 17 of 18 batters at
one point with an array of off-speed pitches and precise control.
Manager Felipe Alou was excited about his 700th career victory, but
he was equally enthused by thoughts of Ainsworth's future.

"I think he's really close to graduation," Alou said. "I
really liked the way he pitched in spring training, so I've been
expecting this from him. I believe he grew up tonight and gained a
tremendous amount of confidence."

Marquis Grissom hurt his former team with his first homer for
the Giants, who are 9-1 for the first time since moving West. The
New York Giants also started 9-1 in 1938, eventually winning 12 of
13.

But after another workmanlike, fundamentally sound victory, the
Giants were talking about the sixth major league start for
Ainsworth (2-0), who gave another tantalizing glimpse of the
potential that convinced them they could trade Livan Hernandez last
month.

Ainsworth retired 12 straight batters in the middle innings,
striking out the side in the third near the beginning of the
sequence. He finished with a career-best five strikeouts, and gave
valuable rest to a bullpen worn out by several days of overuse.

"If I can give the guys a little bit of confidence in me,
that's good," Ainsworth said. "I had no idea I'd go as far as I
did, but it was important to give the bullpen a break."

He got a big cheer when he emerged to start the ninth, and
another when he left after allowing Paul Lo Duca's leadoff double.

"That's the dream of every little kid," Ainsworth said. "It
was really special to me."

Scott Eyre and Tim Worrell finished it, though Lo Duca scored on
Worrell's two-out wild pitch. Worrell struck out Fred McGriff for
his fourth save in five chances while filling in for injured closer
Robb Nen.

Jose Cruz Jr. extended his hitting streak to 10 games, while
Rich Aurilia improved his string to nine games as the Giants handed
Hideo Nomo his first career loss in San Francisco in the opener of
a four-game series against their biggest rivals.

Nomo (1-2) allowed eight hits over seven solid innings, but fell
to 8-1 in San Francisco since beginning his major league career at
Candlestick Park on May 2, 1995. He also was denied his 100th
career victory.

"This isn't frustrating," Nomo said of the Dodgers' lack of
run support. "The two runs I gave up were my responsibility. The
Giants are a different team from last year, but they're still a
very strong team."

The Giants took the lead in the second inning when J.T. Snow
singled home Cruz. An inning later, Cruz kept alive his streak of
getting a hit in every game during his first season with the
Giants.

Grissom homered on the first pitch he saw from Nomo in the
fourth inning. Grissom spent the previous two seasons in Los
Angeles, hitting .277 with 17 homers in 2002.

Barry Bonds went 2-for-4 with a fifth-inning double off the wall
in right field.

Ainsworth's emergence for the Giants has been expected since he
starred for the U.S. national team at the Sydney Olympics, but he
hadn't cracked the rotation until this spring. Hernandez was traded
to the Expos partly because of the team's confidence in Ainsworth --
and so far, he hasn't let the Giants down.

"He had a lot of early strikes, and he got ahead of the hitters
and worked both sides of the plate," Dodgers manager Jim Tracy
said. "Lo Duca was the only guy who stung the ball against
Ainsworth."

Ainsworth also got help from his teammates -- particularly two
new acquisitions who aren't supposed to be defensive stars.

Ray Durham ended the sixth inning with a diving stop and a tough
throw from behind second base to nip Shawn Green, while Cruz made a
diving catch of Adrian Beltre's fly to right in the seventh.

Game notes
The Giants put RHP Ryan Jensen on the 15-day disabled list
with back problems. Jesse Foppert, San Francisco's top pitching
prospect, is expected to make his major league debut Monday against
Houston. ... Attendance was 38,294 _ less than a sellout. ...
Aurilia also has a hit in every game he's played this season. ...
The Dodgers lost for just the 11th time in 25 games at Pacific Bell
Park.

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