Springer's in the Air for Dodgers


They stopped trying to figure this out weeks ago, instead simply following Manager Jim Tracy and enjoying the ride.

The resurgent Dodgers now expect to overcome injuries and their deficiencies while finding a way to win, which they did Tuesday in a 7-2 victory against the Milwaukee Brewers before 34,444 at Miller Park.

Veteran knuckleballer Dennis Springer (1-0) joined a long list of unexpected Dodger heroes recently in sending the Brewers to their 11th consecutive loss--the longest losing streak in the majors this season--with a surprising seven-inning, one-run outing that was much better than his first Dodger start against them last week at Dodger Stadium.

Gary Sheffield hit his 23rd home run and Shawn Green followed with his team-leading 27th in the fifth as the Dodgers scored six runs to take a 7-0 lead.

The Dodgers (58-43) are rising quickly, winning 10 of 11 and 20 of 26 in their most successful stretch since also going 20-6 from Aug. 22 through Sept. 18, 1996.

They remained a half game behind the first-place Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West, and two games ahead of the wild-card pack.

Just another day with the Dodgers, who are surprising themselves daily too.

"It's safe to say that we just got another great performance from a very unexpected source," Tracy said. "Springer did a magnificent job for us, and as far as the team collectively, once again we got production from the middle of our lineup.

"When you go along far enough, you gain the belief that's in that clubhouse. When other people become part of our situation, they step into that clubhouse and feel very strongly that they don't want to let anybody down.

"They step themselves up a notch or two, and normally when that happens, you get performances and play out of people that you really didn't expect. It's just a very positive thing that's going on in our clubhouse right now."

The Brewers appeared befuddled against Springer, who earned his first victory since Sept. 21, 1999, against the Montreal Expos while with the Florida Marlins.

On Tuesday, Springer mixed an effective fastball and slider with his floating knuckleball.

The right-hander gave up five hits--including the first of Ron Belliard's two solo home runs--with a walk and four strikeouts. He threw 57 strikes in 95 pitches.

Springer got no decision in an 8-6 victory against the Brewers last Thursday, giving up seven hits and four earned runs in four innings.

On the strength of Springer's second Dodger outing, Tracy said he will start Sunday against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

"It's been a long time since I've had a win, a couple of years, so it was nice," said Springer, whose contract was purchased from triple-A Las Vegas last Wednesday.

"I don't really know what my situation is here. If I can help them in any way, it's good for me and it's good for them."

Catcher Paul Lo Duca was impressed.

"He mixed up his pitches well," Lo Duca said. "He had a good knuckleball, real good, but he was throwing his fastball where he wanted to and he was throwing his slider for strikes at any given time.

"His knuckleball was so good, when he can throw his fastball where he wanted to, it's tough to hit. He froze a couple of guys because that 78-mph fastball looks like 100."

Springer did not need much help, but Dodger batters again provided strong support with 12 hits.

Leading, 1-0, in the fifth, the Dodgers broke the game open while chasing Milwaukee starter Jamey Wright (8-6), who does not enjoy facing Sheffield.

Sheffield's two-run shot in the inning was his fourth in seven at-bats against Wright this season.

Green followed with his fourth home run in as many games, marking the eighth time the Dodgers have hit consecutive homers in 2001, and the right fielder's first four-homer stretch since 1998.

"Sheff's been hot lately, Greenie has been consistent and we're getting production from everybody," first baseman Eric Karros said. "Then Springer comes out and throws a game like he did tonight. Everybody is contributing."

Well, not everybody. After going 10 for 14 in his first three games, McKay Christensen was hitless in five at-bats. Can't win them all. But 10 of 11 isn't bad.



Baseball's best records in July:


Team W L Pct. Oakland 16 5 .762 Dodgers 15 6 .714 Seattle 14 7 .667 Houston 14 7 .667 Yankees 14 8 .636 Angels 13 8 .619 Cubs 12 8 .600 San Diego 12 8 .600


Note: Dodgers' record is 5-5 against opponents with a .500 record or better at the time they played and 10-1 against opponents below .500.

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