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Dodgers' closer keeps rolling

8/23/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- There is just no stopping Eric Gagne --
especially when the opponent helps him out.

Gagne tied a major league record with his 43rd consecutive save
this season as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the New York Mets 2-1
Friday night. The All-Star right-hander got a break when
pinch-runner Vance Wilson missed a bunt sign and got thrown out in
the ninth inning.

Gagne got three outs for his 51st consecutive save overall,
three shy of the major league record set by Tom Gordon. Gordon
saved 43 straight in the 1998 season.

"It's eventually going to stop at some point, I would think,"
teammate Ron Coomer said. "But he's one of those guys that just
has unbelievable dominating stuff. And when you only face him for
an inning, he's that good."

None of the three batters in the Mets' ninth had ever faced
Gagne. Jason Phillips led off with a single and was replaced on the
basepaths by Wilson. Rookie Ty Wigginton was given the bunt sign,
but Wilson took off thinking it was a hit-and-run play -- and Paul
Lo Duca threw him out. Gagne then struck out Wigginton and Jeff
Duncan.

Manager Art Howe chose Wilson to pinch-run instead of Marco
Scutaro because he wanted Scutaro to bat for reliever Dan Wheeler,
if it got that far.

"I messed up," Wilson said. "A total of 13 guys played
tonight and I made a bonehead play that cost us a game. I've never
missed a sign before."

Hideo Nomo (15-9) won his fourth straight start at home,
allowing a run and six hits in seven innings, struck out seven and
walked three.

Mike Piazza, booed every time up by the fans who used to cheer
his every move with the Dodgers, faced Paul Quantrill in the eighth
with the tying run on base, but grounded into his second
consecutive double play after striking out his first two times up
against Nomo.

"I didn't have a good at-bat. It was the best I've seen Nomo
throw in years," Piazza said of his former batterymate. "He had a
lot of downward motion. He's throwing well. I'm very impressed.
He's always been the type of pitcher who walks a few guys, then
bears down and gets you out of the inning."

The Dodgers scored both runs in the fourth against lefty Al
Leiter (12-7). Cesar Izturis got an RBI single after Coomer hit a
bases-loaded sacrifice fly to center field.

"I know he wants me to hook a ground ball so I can hit into a
double play, and I want to elevate one so I don't hit into one,"
Coomer said. "He left one out over the plate that he probably
thought would just be strike one, and I hit it pretty hard. So it
worked out OK."

Leiter, who won four of his previous five decisions, allowed six
hits over six innings, struck out five and walked three. New York's
starters were 7-0 with a 2.04 ERA over the previous nine games.

"Any loss is tough, but I knew coming into this start, the way
Hideo's been throwing this year, that our guys would have a tough
time scoring," Leiter said. "Nomo's record, his ERA and all the
numbers reflect a guy who's executing a lot of good pitches. So I
knew we had to play well-executed winning baseball. And we
didn't."

The Mets, who stranded three runners in scoring position in the
first five innings, got a run in the seventh when Wigginton led off
with his 10th home run.

Singles by Roger Cedeno and Timo Perez put runners at the
corners for the Mets with one out in the first, Piazza struck out
and Phillips looked at a third strike. Piazza came up again with
two on in the third and chased a pitch that bounced at least three
feet in front of the plate after Nomo fooled him badly on a couple
of offspeed pitches.

Leiter attempted a sacrifice in the fifth with no one out, but
popped it up and third baseman Adrian Beltre doubled up Joe McEwing
at first. Cedeno singled and stole second, but rookie Jose Reyes
struck out.

Jeromy Burnitz, hitting .223 with seven homers and 17 RBI since
the Mets traded him to the Dodgers on July 14, did not play because
of some slight groin soreness -- and the fact that he is 3-for-18
lifetime against Leiter.

Game notes
The Mets are 0-60 when trailing after eight innings and the
Dodgers are 60-0 when leading. ... Henderson tied Rod Carew for
20th place all-time with his 3,053rd hit, a fifth-inning single.
... Dodgers 1B Fred McGriff, who signed a one-year, $3.75 million
free agent contract on Dec. 20 to replace the traded Eric Karros,
was activated from the DL after being sidelined since June 14
because of groin and knee injuries. ... Dodgers OF Mike Kinkade,
who made his big league debut with the Mets in 1998 at 3B, started
in RF for the first time this season as Shawn Green sat out his
second straight game because of a stiff neck.