The Lima is Mighty and Shall Prevail

Jose Lima, the heart and soul of the 2004 Dodgers, performed magic beyond any Dodger fans wildest dreams, holding the Cardinals to five singles and pitching the first shutout in Dodger post season since Orel Hershiser stopped Oakland in the second game of the 1988 World Series. Shawn Green and Steve Finley knocked in a pair of runs each, Green with a couple long home runs, as the biggest crowd at Dodger Stadium -- 55,992 -- since Game 2 of the 1988 World Series roared their approval.

Lima, who was 9-1 with a 3.08 ERA at Dodger Stadium during the regular season, pitched his first complete game since 2001, striking out four and walking one. It was second shutout of his career.

After he disposed the Cardinals in the eighth inning, the crowd assumed superstopper Eric Gagné, who was warmed and ready, would come in to close the game out, so they called Lima out of the Dugout for a curtain call, chanting, "Lima, Lima, Lima."

The electric Dominican grimaces, shouted, waived his clenched fist as the kept the Cardinals off balance through 109 pitches, 74 of them strikes and the other 35 pitches tantalizingly close to the strike zone.

He allowed leadoff singles in the first and second inning, then retired 11 of the next 12 Cardinals in order. Only in the fifth inning did they get more than one man on base and he mowed down the final 13 batters, masterfully spacing a walk and a single.

His teammates were doing little to help him until the third inning when Cora was hit on the hand by a pitch -- his 18th HB of the season -- and Brent Mayne lofted a single to right.

Lima bunted in front of the plate and television replays show that the ball bounced up and hit his bat for the second time. It should have been called a foul ball since Lima was still in the batters' box but part of his magic this fall evening made the play invisible to the umpires. St. Louis catcher Mike Mathany threw late to second base in an attempt to nail Mayne but all runners were safe.

Finley the whacked a two-out broken bat double inside the bag at third to score a pair of runs and put Los Angeles in the lead for good.

Green singled in the second but was wiped out on a double play. He then boomed a homer over the center field fence in the fourth and hit the first pitch deep into the right field seats in the sixth to become the first Dodger to hit a pair of home runs in a post season game since Kirk Gibson

Former Dodgers manager Tom Lasorda and standouts Fernando Valenzuela, Rick Monday and Ron Cey threw out ceremonial first pitches to get the evening off to a strong start.

Odalis Perez, rocked for six runs in 2 2-3 innings in Tuesday's opener, starts Sunday night for the Dodgers against Jeff Suppan, trying to force a fifth and deciding game the following night in St. Louis. No NL team has won the division series after falling behind 0-2 since the expanded playoffs began in 1995.

Los Angeles had lost eight postseason games in a row since beating Oakland in the 1988 World Series. The Dodgers were swept 3-0 by Cincinnati in 1995 and by Atlanta the following year, then didn't get back to the playoffs until this year, when they twice lost 8-3 in St. Louis.

But Lima was strong enough to ward off the cold winds, demonstrating that Lima Time can indeed overcome winter time.

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