Saturday, October 9th, 2004
11:45 pm - Lima Time!  
Jose Lima opened 2003 pitching for the Newark Bears in the independent Atlantic League, one step above semi-pro. He was once a twenty game winner for the Astros, but his fastball had vanished, and major league scouts thought that at age thirty he was washed up. The thing is, he pitched well for the Bears. The Royals, desperate for cheap pitching, signed him mid-season, and he won his first eight starts for them before an injury effectively ended his season. They cut him after the season was done.

The Dodgers invited him to spring training on a minor league contract, and he pitched well enough to make the team as the last guy in the bullpen, the guy who only gets into the game if another pitcher gets clobbered early on, or if someone gets hurt. Well, someone did, and Lima did okay in a couple of spot starts, so eventually Tracy stuck him in the rotation. He wound up having his best season since he won twenty-one in '99, 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA.

He's a very animated player, even when he's not pitching, sort of a Dominican version of Kirby Puckett. He was the one leading the cheers when LA scored seven in the bottom of the ninth the clinch the division last weekend. He sings in a band, and he sang the national anthem before a game once. He pitched his last two starts of the regular season with a broken thumb.

Tonight Lima pitched what was possibly the best game of his career, a five-hit shutout, as the Dodgers managed to avoid elimination from the playoffs, 4-0. It was a magnificent performance. He's no longer a power pitcher. He gets by on guile, changing speeds and painting the corners of the strike zone, all the while talking to himself on the mound, and it threw the meat of the Cards' order completely off balance. He was constantly ahead of the hitters; it seemed like he was up 0-2 on almost everyone. He only walked one. The most amazing thing was that Tracy left him in there. The Dodgers only had two complete games all year (both by Ishii), and Lima only had eight complete games in his career, yet there he was in the ninth, still throwing as Gagne watched from the bullpen. It only took him ten pitches to dispose of Pujols, Rolen, and Edmonds for the win.

Meanwhile, Shawn Green continued to hit rockets out of the park. Two homers tonight to go with the shot he hit Thursday. All in all, it was a good night, and there's at least one more Dodger game to be played this year.

The Yanks won another extra inning game, eliminating the Twins, so now they'll meet the Sox in the ALCS.
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