Lima, Dodgers Take Series from Yankees

Dodger Stadium was a time capsule Sunday, with Dodger fans screaming and hugging strangers as the defeated New York Yankees retreated to their clubhouse after a heart-stopping 5-4 defeat, keyed by Eric Gagné, who got the final four outs despite giving up a home run to Jason Giambi in the ninth inning. Jose Lima pitched masterfully, then led cheers from the dugout as Los Angeles won the rubber game of a series that meant much more to Dodger fans than the best two of three from their old rival.

The climax of the long-awaited series came before 55,157 excited fans, running the three-game count to a club-record 165,240 and when Gagné fanned Hideki Matsui for the final out in the ninth inning, bedlam erupted as the usually placid Los Angeles fans gave a great Ebbets Field impersonation.

Celebrity was rampant. Kobe Bryant got a standing ovation when he arrived in the third inning, ambivalently dressed in a Dodger cap and Yankee jersey. Billy Crystal wore the expected navy blue Yankee cap, Jack Nicholson an ugly yellow one. Frank McCourt gave him a Dodger cap, which Nicholson quickly dropped onto the seat beside him.

"Yes, this was Dodger Stadium, the one-time sanctuary of the habitually late, the beachball addicted and the incurably laid back. With a national television audience looking on, a sellout crowd of 55,157 had just shown America that things clearly have changed at Chavez Ravine, and that when it comes to baseball, Angelenos can be just as intense, just as loud and just as hostile as their New York counterparts."--Tony Jackson, Los Angeles Daily News.

To be practical, it was a win that keep the raging Giants from the door yet one more day but to victory-starved Dodger fans who had been smothered by the mediocrity of the previous regime, it was a glimmer of hope that a first playoff invitation in eight years and first playoff victory in 16 might, just might, be in their appointment book under October.

Lima (6-2, 3.75) allowed three runs in six-plus innings. In his last 10 outings he's 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA and he hasn't walked a batter in his last 20 innings. He retired all six of the batters he faced before the homers and 11 of the 14 he faced afterward.

"I didn't see anyone leave early the whole series. They could care less about the traffic jam in the parking lot. The excitement and passion was pretty awesome."--catcher Paul Lo Duca.

The Dodgers broke up a 0-0 game in the second inning when Shawn Green opened with a solo home run, his first in 142 at-bats. Paul Lo Duca lined a double down the right field line and Adrian Beltré singled so sharply to left that Lo Duca stopped at third. Juan Encarnacion's long fly scored the second run and after Alex Cora looped a single to left, Dave Roberts made it 4-0 with a single to center.

Hideki Matsui collected the first hit off Lima in the top of the third, a line shot into the center field seats. Former Dodger Miguel Cairo lofted a drive into the Dodger bullpen and NY had cut the margin to 4-2, just like the old days.

But Lima was masterful, allowing only five hits in his six innings of work and he didn't walk anyone. He retired the final eight Yankees he faced and gave way to Darrin Dreifort after allowing a single to open the seventh. Dreifort gave up another single, then followed with a double play ball.

Tom Martin was victimized by a booming triple to center by Matsui that Milton Bradley nearly caught up with and Guillermo Mota was summoned to get Cairo on a fly to left.

Dave Roberts streaked around the bases with two out in the seventh after his opposite field double to left eluded Matsui and rolled toward center field. His run made it 5-3 and became more important as the next two innings unfolded.

Mota allowed a harmless single in the eighth but manager Jim Tracy was taking no chances and brought in Gagné to face Alex Rodriguez, the tying run. A 98-mph lightening bolt brushed away that threat and set up an electric atmosphere in the top of the ninth.

Jason Giambi tagged a Gagné changeup for a homer to lead off the top of the ninth and veteran Dodger fans had that strange feeling in their stomachs again, but the Dodger ace nailed down his 81st consecutive save by retiring Gary Sheffield on a shot to Beltre, Jorge Posada on a fly to Roberts and then caught Matsui looking on a 3-2 changeup as the stadium went wild.

Tonight, the Dodgers open a four-game series at San Francisco, one that has much more meaning in the standings. By winning, the Dodgers maintained a 1-game lead over the hard-charging Giants, who once trailed by as many as eight games.

Father's Day Tradition--Dodgers owner Frank McCourt estimated that 8,000 to 10,000 people showed up at the ballpark early Sunday for a Father's Day promotion in which fans were invited to play catch with their dads on the outfield grass. Among them were Dodgers legends Steve Garvey and Ron Cey.

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