Advertisement

Cubs Beckon to Closer and Defeat Dodgers, 2-1

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Cub closer Rod Beck wanted to join the Dodgers as a free agent in the off-season, but the team said it couldn’t afford him.

Beck reminded them what they’re missing Sunday.

The veteran reliever pitched out of a ninth-inning jam in the Chicago Cubs’ 2-1 victory over the Dodgers before 26,795 at Wrigley Field.

With one out and runners on second and third, Beck struck out Matt Luke and Jose Vizcaino, who took a called third strike. The Dodgers wasted another quality start by Ismael Valdes in losing for the second time in the three-game series.

Advertisement

Beck secured the first victory for starter Jeremi Gonzalez, who pitched eight strong innings, and earned his sixth save in six opportunities. He said it wasn’t personal--only business.

“I’ve been doing this a long time, and you can’t get caught up in anything except doing your job against whoever you’re facing,” he said. “When you’re out there in that situation, the only thing on your mind is getting outs.”

It wasn’t easy, but Beck got the job done.

He pitched the ninth after Gonzalez (1-2) gave up a run and four hits. Todd Zeile flied to right for the first out, and Todd Hollandsworth singled through the middle.

Advertisement

Thomas Howard, batting for reliever Brad Clontz, doubled down the left-field line, and third-base coach Joe Amalfitano held Hollandsworth at third. That brought up Luke.

With the infield playing back, Luke might have tied the score with a ground ball. But he struck out on a split-fingered pitch.

“The worst thing you can do in that situation is strike out, you have to put that ball in play,” Manager Bill Russell said. “With the infield back, you have to get it past the pitcher to the middle infielders.

“He came up with a big hit earlier, but Beck threw him a good off-speed pitch in that situation. We needed that one.”

Advertisement

In the seventh inning, Luke’s two-out double scored Hollandsworth, who had tripled.

Vizcaino and Beck were teammates last season when the Giants won the National League West title, and Beck said that Vizcaino knows his pitching tendencies. So he made some changes.

“He knows that my fastball is usually my strikeout pitch, and I knew that,” Beck said. “So on that last pitch, I threw the split-finger.”

Valdes (1-3) pitched 6 2/3 innings, giving up two runs and seven hits. With one out in the fourth, Henry Rodriguez hit a solo home run, his seventh, to right against Valdes that was the decisive run.

Advertisement

“I threw a curveball to him in a good location, he just did an excellent job with it,” Valdes said. “I did my best to keep my team in the game, but it was just [Gonzalez’s] day.”

Gonzalez had an 11.70 earned-run average in three starts before Sunday, but the Dodgers were no match for him. He effectively mixed his sinker and slider, and lowered his ERA to 7.00.

“We had our opportunities all game long,” Russell said.

“We just didn’t come through with enough big hits, especially in the ninth when Beck really made some tough pitches to get out of it.”

Advertisement

Beck had 37 saves last season, and the all-star right-hander seemingly would have filled the Dodgers’ void at closer with the retirement of Todd Worrell.

But Fred Claire, executive vice president, didn’t pursue him because of payroll concerns, so Beck signed a one-year, $4-million contract with the Cubs in January.

The Dodgers hope that Antonio Osuna will emerge as their closer, but he is struggling.

The role is being filled by committee for now.

Advertisement

“I’m happy here,” said Beck, who has two more saves than the Dodger bullpen. “We have some new guys in here, we feel we can do something, and I’m glad to be part of this team.”

He could have been part of the Dodgers.


Advertisement
Advertisement