LOS ANGELES (AP) -- When Eric Gagne trots in from the bullpen
with a lead, the flashing scoreboards throughout Dodger Stadium say
it all: "Game Over."
It may seem obnoxious and demeaning to opponents, but the
All-Star closer has proven it to be true.
Gagne tied the major league record for consecutive saves from
the start of a season, and Adrian Beltre hit a go-ahead two-run
double as Los Angeles completed a three-game sweep of the
Cincinnati Reds with a 4-3 victory Thursday night.
It's the fourth time this season that Gagne saved every game of
a three-game series, something he didn't do last year when he set a
franchise record with 52 saves in his first season as a reliever.
Gagne's only blown save this season didn't count on his record --
it came in the All-Star game.
"I don't think he's done, as far as stretching it out a little
further," manager Jim Tracy said. "I get asked the question all
the time about how much he's been used, but regularity of work is
what keeps this guy on top of his game and keeps him sharp.
"He will use in three or four saves as many pitches as some
closers may need to get one. And as long as we don't deal with arm
fatigue, we'll look at opportunities to use him."
Gagne, the fourth Dodgers pitcher, struck out the side in the
ninth for his 46th straight regular-season save and 38th this year,
matching the record Jose Mesa set in 1995 with Cleveland. Mesa
finished that season 46-for-48.
"Gagne is totally different than Jose because Jose threw mostly
heaters, and Gagne's got three pitches that are above average,"
said Dodgers reliever Paul Shuey, who was teammates with Mesa for
parts of five seasons -- including '95.
"I feel a lot more comfortable with Gagne," Shuey said. "I
mean, Jose would come in and walk a couple of guys, then get a
couple of strikeouts or popups. But it wasn't like he was locked
in. It was a little more like a Mitch Williams-type deal. But with
Gagne, he just goes in punches out three guys and walks off. And
when they put it in play, they feel like they got lucky."
Hideo Nomo (13-9) pitched 6 1-3 innings, allowing three runs and
six hits -- including solo homers by Brandon Larson and D'Angelo
Jimenez. The right-hander escaped bases-loaded jams in the third
and fifth innings, striking out Jason LaRue the first time and
getting LaRue to ground into a force play his next time up.
"He's got good stuff," Reds cleanup hitter Adam Dunn said.
"He's got that split, and you know that it's coming, but it's
tough to hit. He was typical Nomo -- hitting his spots and making
pitches when it counted."
Cincinnati's Paul Wilson (6-9) allowed four runs -- two earned --
and eight hits in eight innings while walking five.
Ray Olmedo, making his 12th start at shortstop this season,
committed a costly error in the third that allowed the Dodgers to
score a pair of unearned runs and take a 3-2 lead. It was the Reds'
108th error, the most in the majors -- and only 12 fewer than all of
Jeromy Burnitz walked with one out and Paul Lo Duca followed
with a grounder to second, but Olmedo dropped the toss from Jimenez
trying for the forceout. Both runners scored one out later when
Beltre swung late and cued a double down the right-field line.
"You try not to let the error affect you," Wilson said. "A
pitcher is supposed to overcome a lot of things. At the time, I was
thinking I was still just a groundball away from getting out of
Burnitz made it 4-2 with an RBI single in the sixth, before
Jimenez led off the seventh with his second homer in 26 games since
being acquired from the Chicago White Sox on July 6.
Larson, who struck out all four times up Wednesday night
following his recall from Triple-A Louisville, drove the first
pitch he saw from Nomo an estimated 433 feet into the left-field
pavilion in the second to tie it at 1-all.
The Reds took a 2-1 lead in the third on a bases-loaded walk to
Larson with two outs.
The loss was the fourth straight for the Reds, who won each of
their previous four series. It was the first time they were swept
in a three-game set at Dodger Stadium since September 1996.
Larson was the Reds' first-round pick in the 1997 draft out
of LSU, after being named MVP of the College World Series. ... OF
Austin Kearns, who had to abort his rehab assignment with Double-A
Chattanooga because of increased soreness in his right shoulder,
will see a chiropractor in Cincinnati over the weekend and be
examined by team doctor Timothy Kremchek on Monday to determine
whether he will need season-ending arthroscopic surgery. ... CF
Mark Budzinski started for the first time in the majors and was
0-for-4, after going 0-for-2 as a pinch-hitter. ... Russell
Branyan, scheduled to start in LF, was scratched because of a sore
right ankle. He struck out as a pinch hitter in the ninth.