10/09/2004 10:17 PM ET
Cardinals quieted by Lima
Dodgers avoid sweep, force Game 4 on Sunday
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
|Tony La Russa argues after Jose Lima reached base on a controversial call. (Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES -- Lima Time got in the way of celebration time for the Cardinals. Dodgers starter Jose Lima completely flummoxed the National League's most potent offense on Saturday night as St. Louis lost to Los Angeles, 4-0, in Game 3 of the National League Division Series.
Lima five-hit the Redbirds after the same offense amassed 16 runs and 20 hits over the series' first two games. The Cards missed a chance to eliminate Los Angeles, though a win Sunday at Dodger Stadium or in a potential Game 5 at home on Monday would move them on to the NL Championship Series.
Lima outpitched Matt Morris, who took the loss despite pitching seven decent innings. The Cardinals right-hander was touched for four runs on six hits, a performance that would have earned him a win in either Game 1 or Game 2.
But St. Louis' hitters, known for making starters work all season, not only couldn't hit Lima, they barely even made the demonstrative hurler sweat. He completed the game with 109 pitches, and only two runners made it into scoring position. Tony Womack's leadoff single and steal in the first constituted arguably the visitors' greatest threat.
"He was getting some quick outs, some one-pitch outs, but that's what he's trying to do," said Scott Rolen, who went 0-for-4. "Being selective is just getting a good pitch to hit, getting a strike to hit. If that's [the first pitch], I think that's the best pitch to put in play.
"We probably chased out of the zone a bit, and I chased out of the zone a bit, but if you get a good pitch to hit, you get the pitch you want, and you ground out, that's the way it goes. You want to get a good pitch to hit and put your best swing on it, and hopefully that ball is the one that goes into play. If it's the first one or the last one, it doesn't matter."
Lima and the sellout crowd of 55,992 delighted in each other's exuberance. He delivered the first postseason shutout against St. Louis since Game 1 of the 2001 Division Series against Arizona, a game also started by Morris. The Cards went on to lose that series in five games. The last pitcher to throw a shutout against St. Louis was Cincinnati's Aaron Harang in late August.
Twelve of the Cardinals' 27 outs came on the first or second pitch, and Lima breezed through a five-pitch third and a six-pitch fourth. Both Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver struggled against St. Louis, yet Lima -- the starter chosen to pitch only once in the series -- was scarcely touched.
"We swung at pitches -- I know I did -- we swung at pitches that left the strike zone, and maybe helped him out," said Larry Walker, who also put up an 0-for-4. "He got on a roll and we couldn't stop him.
"You don't sit around making excuses after a guy throws a shutout for nine innings against you. You don't say, 'He got lucky.' You don't do that. He pitched good and beat us. That's the bottom line. Tip your hat to him. He did his job."
While Lima was dismantling the Cardinals lineup, Morris put up a good, but not good enough performance. Famously inconsistent this year, the right-hander found a medium between his typical extremes. He couldn't reach the level of dominance he showed in an early September start against the Dodgers in St. Louis, but he wasn't knocked around, as happened on several occasions during the year.
"I'd take this same outing again," he said. "Nine times out of 10, you'd be on top. Lima just pitched a good game."
Morris was hurt by a controversial call in the third. With runners on the corners and none out, Lima attempted a sacrifice bunt. Catcher Mike Matheny fielded the ball and attempted to throw out Brent Mayne at second, but Mayne was ruled safe, loading the bases. Replays indicated that the ball hit Lima's bat after bouncing off the ground, which should have led to the pitcher being called out.
"I see an opportunity for a double play, regardless of how they call it," said Matheny. "So I'm thinking two right there, and we had a good chance for it, too. It just kind of screwed up."
Morris held the Dodgers at bay for a while, retiring the next two batters, but Steve Finley poked a broken-bat double down the left-field line to plate two runs. It was exactly the kind of hit the Cardinals managed again and again in Game 2 at Busch Stadium, but there were no such dramatics for them at Chavez Ravine.
It was also the last run for the Dodgers that was anything but a no-doubter. Shawn Green ripped a pair of solo homers off Morris to help Los Angeles pull away, while Lima just kept cruising.
"Everybody's blowing this game up like the series is over," said Womack. "We'll play tomorrow. We've lost a game before. He made his pitches, and there you go."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.