Is The Baez Watch Over?

Danys Baez, who saved 41 games last year for Tampa Bay and who has fallen on hard times this season with the Dodgers, looked like the Baez of old Wednesday afternoon in Colorado's Coors Field, getting a crucial double play to end the eighth inning, then inducing Todd Helton to pop up with the winning run on base in the ninth. Coupled with clutch hits by Olmedo Saenz and Nomar Garciaparra, the Los Angeles popped up over .500 again with a 3-2 victory.

The game was a classic pitchers duel with the Dodgers' Brad Penny and Jason Jennings of Colorado dominating the game from the opening pitch, matching zeros through the first five innings.

With Ramon Martinez at second base in place of Jeff Kent; Willy Aybar at third in place of Bill Mueller and Andre Ethier in the outfield in place of Kenny Lofton, the Dodgers were working without three of their best offensive weapons.

After the Rockies broke through with a pair of two-out singles and a stolen base giving them a 1-0 lead in the sixth, the Dodgers bounced back in the seventh with four expertly placed singles and a walk scoring three. An error in the eighth cut the L.A. lead to 3-2 and Baez took over at that point and while he didn't knock the bat out of anyone's hand, he nailed it down for his ninth save.

Penny was superb until running a bit low on gas in the sixth inning when he gave up a single that just cleared shortstop Rafael Furcal's glove, a stolen base and a simple ground ball that eluded both Furcal and Ramon Martinez who was playing third.

At the time, you could have gotten pretty good odds that the single run would be enough to win for Colorado but Jennings, too, was running low on fuel.

With one out, Martinez laced a single to left and Russell Martin, who is making a remarkable impression on everyone who watches him, beat out an infield hit to the second baseman with an ill-advised head-first slide into the bag at first.

Olmedo Saenz, an imposing figure with a bat in his hands, worked the count to 2-2 then singled to tie the game at one. It was his 20th run batted in over only 64 times at bat, a ratio that would give him an impossible 1,600 runs batted in over a 500 at-bat season.

With two out, Jose Cruz came to the plate with a .239 average and 3-for-21 (.143) record with men on base and worked a walk to load the sacks.

Nomar Garciaparra, the Dodgers hottest hitter, came to the plate wit a .361 average in May and laced a sharp grounder into left field to score Martin and Saenz and suddenly the Dodgers lead 3-1.

Jonathan Broxton worked a perfect seventh, striking out a pair and Joe Beimel retired Helton to open the eighth but then gave up a double and a shot up the middle that the runner held up to see if it would be caught.

Then a little bouncer down the third base line was scooped up by Oscar Robles and thrown high to first base, allowing a run and putting the tying run at second and the lead run at first.

Enter Baez and exit Rockies with a tailor-made double play ball to Furcal at short. Martinez's relay beat the runner to first by three steps.

In the bottom of the ninth, Baez disposed of the first two Colorado hitters, then he was one pitch away from ending things but walked the Rockie leadoff man. Not only that, he hit the next batter to put the winning run at first.

Then Helton, who holds most of the Colorado batting records and a .379 average so far this season, banged a harmless fly to Drew in right field and the guys in the white hats moved to 21-20 and are two games behind league-leading Arizona.

The Dodgers have Thursday off before they return home to host Anaheim and Colorado for three games each.
  Score by innings
Los Angeles 000 000 300-3
Colorado    000 001 010-2

  Dodgers      ab r h bi ave
Furcal, SS      5 0 0 0 .227
Cruz, CF        3 0 0 0 .236
Garciaparra, 1B 4 0 1 2 .337
Drew, RF        3 0 1 0 .290
Aybar, 3B       4 0 1 0 .400
 Beimel, P      0 0 0 0 .000
 Baez, P        0 0 0 0 .000
Ethier, LF      4 0 0 0 .222
Martinez, 2B    4 1 2 0 .324
Martin C        4 1 2 0 .294
Penny, P        2 0 0 0 .222
  Saenz, PH     1 1 1 1 .297
 Broxton, P     0 0 0 0 .000
 Robles, 3B     1 0 0 0 .150
  Totals       35 3 8 3 
  Colorado     36 2 9 2   

  Error- Robles. 2B hits- Martinez (3). RBI- 
Saenz (20), Garciaparra 2 (25). LOB- 
Los Angeles 8, Colorado 10. DP- (Furcal, 
Martinez and Garciaparra).

  Dodgers       in  h  r-er bb so era
Penny (W, 4-1) 6.0  6  1-1  0  7 2.53
Broxton        1.0  0  0-0  0  2 1.29
Beimel         0.1  2  1-1  0  0 2.92
Baez (S, 9)    1.2  1  0-0  0  0 3.10
  HBP- two by Penny and  one by 
Baez. T- 3:04. Att- 30,296.
Dodger Blue Notes-- Manager Grady Little said the club is optimistic both Kent and Lofton, with the benefit of a day off Thursday, will be ready to play Friday. …Aybar came into the final game of the series 5-for-11 this season and had one hit in four trips. He was batting .340 in his brief Major League career, dating back to last Aug. 31. …Little adjusted the starting rotation and will use Aaron Sele, Brett Tomko and Derek Lowe against the Angels and moving Jae Seo to Monday against Colorado. The opening game will be of special importance with Former Angel Sele (1-0, 1.98 ERA) against former Dodger Jeff Weaver (1-6, 7.40 ERA).