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Rockies bounce back to end four-game skid

7/22/2003

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Colorado manager Clint Hurdle is trying to
stretch out his starters on the road so that he can preserve
innings for his bullpen at Coors Field -- where it's really needed.

Denny Stark gave Hurdle what he wanted on Monday night, earning
his first victory of an injury-plagued season as the Rockies beat
the Los Angeles Dodgers 4-1 to end a five-game losing streak.

Stark came through after the Rockies' other four starters got
shelled in a four-game sweep by the San Francisco Giants, with none
of them lasting more than five innings.

"We needed someone to take the first step for us, make a
statement and take charge on the mound so that we're not battling
uphill all the time. And Denny gave us all that and more," Hurdle
said.

Stark (1-0) allowed a run and four hits over seven innings in
his fourth start of the year. He missed the Rockies' first 84 games
because of a strained muscle in his upper back.

"It was big to get that first one under my belt," Stark said.
"I've felt pretty good since I've been activated from the DL. The
main objective was just to keep the team in the game and stay away
from the big inning."

The Dodgers, who averaged 6.1 runs and hit 14 homers over their
previous nine games, wasted a one-out triple in the third by Cesar
Izturis, a leadoff double in the sixth by pinch-hitter Larry Barnes
and a two-out double in the seventh by David Ross.

"Stark's thrown well against us. He's pretty aggressive and
goes after each hitter and gets ahead. That's a good way to
pitch," said Shawn Green, who homered for the Dodgers' only run.

"He had a great rookie season last year and he's becoming a
pretty good pitcher. And good pitchers get out of jams. We hit some
balls hard. If you hit enough of them hard, you're going to score
some runs, but we didn't hit enough."

Stark warmed up for the eighth, but was removed in a double
switch after the Dodgers sent up Mike Kinkade to bat for reliever
Tom Martin.

Brian Fuentes retired all four batters he faced and Justin
Speier got the last two outs for his sixth save in seven chances.

Speier is 5-for-5 since Hurdle took the closer's job away from
Jose Jimenez and appointed Speier and Fuentes as "co-closers."
The change was made because of Jimenez's lack of production and his
inefficiency against left-handed hitters.

"We thought that we'd give him a breather, getting him out of
that position with the drama and intensity that comes with it -- and
these two guys have done the job," Hurdle said.

"Speier's got that mentality you like out there late, and he's
pretty resilient. He has trouble remembering yesterday -- which
isn't a bad thing to have as a characteristic of a closer," he
said.

Andy Ashby (2-7) lost his third consecutive start and fourth
straight to the Rockies. He allowed four runs and nine hits in 5
2-3 innings, including a pair of first-inning runs on Todd Helton's
groundout and Larry Walker's infield single.

Bobby Estalella, who was left at the plate in the fourth inning
when Ross threw out Jay Payton trying to steal second base, led off
the fifth with his sixth home run to extend the Rockies' lead to
3-1. They subsequently loaded the bases, but team RBI leader
Preston Wilson grounded into an inning-ending double play.

One night after the Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals set a Dodger
Stadium record by combining for nine home runs, Green hit his 11th
homer in the Dodgers' fourth.

The loss was the third straight for the Dodgers. They have
dropped six of seven against the Rockies since sweeping them in a
three-game series May 20-22 at Dodger Stadium.

Game notes
Helton was 0-for-3 with a walk, ending his road hitting
streak at 16, the second-longest in Rockies history behind Vinny
Castilla's 21 straight. ... Paul Lo Duca was 0-for-4 and is hitless
in 14 career at-bats against Stark. ... In his only other start at
Dodger Stadium, Stark allowed one hit over seven innings to beat
Odalis Perez 1-0 last Sept. 24. ... Colorado LHP Denny Neagle, who
left Sunday's start at San Francisco after four innings because of
inflammation in his elbow, was in Denver for an MRI to determine
whether he will have to go on the DL. He missed the first 71 games
with stiffness in his elbow.