Messing with the surging Dodgers these days apparently is risky business for opponents and fans.
Although All-Star closer Eric Gagne delivered another knockout punch Wednesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies, utilityman Jason Romano landed the most stunning blow in a wild ninth inning at Dodger Stadium.
Gagne struck out the side for the third time in as many appearances, compiling a streak of 10 strikeouts in a row. He recorded his fifth save in six days, 17th in as many chances and 25th in a row since last season.
The Dodgers (26-20) received another quality start from Kazuhisa Ishii in moving a season-high six games above .500, and Gagne’s typically dominant performance would have highlighted the team’s season-high sixth consecutive victory.
However, one member of a crowd of 25,332 stupidly got into the act.
As team trainers tended to Gagne, who tried to barehand pinch-hitter Greg Norton’s infield single, a fan rushed onto the field and headed toward left fielder Brian Jordan.
Alert because of increased incidents of fan violence the last two seasons, Romano sprinted toward Jordan and intercepted the fan, punching and body-slamming the man as Dodger security personnel rushed to the scene.
“I saw him coming straight at me, and I didn’t know what he was going to do,” said Romano, who entered in center as a defensive replacement in the eighth as Jordan moved to left.
“I saw him raise his hand like he was going to hit [Jordan] in the back, so I just reacted. I hit him pretty good. I got him solid in the chest. I tackled him shoulder to shoulder.”
The fan was identified as Oscar Villanueva, 26, a Dodger spokesman said. Villanueva was taken into custody and will be charged with trespassing and stopping a major sporting event.
Romano knew what he had to do.
“If nothing had happened the last year or two, I would have let it go,” Romano said. “Knowing what’s going on in the world, I had to react.”
It began as a routine outing for Gagne.
He struck out pinch-hitters Mark Sweeney and Larry Walker for the first two outs, then Norton hit for Colorado starter Jason Jennings. On a high chopper to the mound, Gagne slipped trying to make a play.
“I couldn’t find the ground,” he said . “I saw the ball, I tried to catch it, but I should have let it go. The ball hit me in the palm, but I was fine.”
While the Dodgers and most of the crowd were focusing on Gagne, Villanueva made his move, becoming the latest fan to strike fear into players. There have been two incidents the last two seasons in Chicago during White Sox games.
The Dodgers are pleased Romano got into the mix.
“You usually don’t see that at all,” said right fielder Shawn Green, who was two for four with a triple. “You fear for Brian’s safety.”
Gagne quickly ended things after order was restored. He struck out Chris Stynes to end the game and complete another good job by the bullpen.
In his first appearance since being activated from the disabled list, reliever Paul Shuey minimized the damage after Ishii walked the Nos. 7 and 8 batters to start the seventh.
Shuey gave up only one run, which was charged to Ishii.
In six-plus innings, the left-hander gave up three hits and two runs. He overcame six walks and had a season-high eight strikeouts.
Left-hander Tom Martin walked the only batter he faced in the eighth. Colorado failed to score against setup man Paul Quantrill, who put Gagne in position again.
Jennings (3-4) worked eight innings. Last season’s National League rookie of the year gave up 11 hits.
The Rockies (21-25) have dropped the first two games of the three-game series. “We couldn’t capitalize on Ishii’s wildness,” Colorado Manager Clint Hurdle said.
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Eric Gagne struck out 10 consecutive batters over four games before giving up a two-out single to Greg Norton on Wednesday. He then struck out Chris Stynes to end the game, giving him 11 strikeouts in his last 12 batters A look:
BATTER, NO. OF PITCHES STRUCK OUT...
May 17, vs. Florida
Juan Encarnacion, six pitches swinging
Mike Lowell, six pitches swinging
May 18, vs. Florida
Alex Gonzalez, four pitches swinging
Mike Redmond, six pitches swinging
Brian Banks, five pitches swinging
May 20, vs. Colorado
Larry Walker, three pitches swinging
Jose Hernandez, three pitches looking
Charles Johnson, five pitches looking
May 21, vs. Colorado
Mark Sweeney, four pitches swinging
Larry Walker, three pitches swinging
Gagne’s pitching line over the four games:
4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 11 SO, 4 saves
For the season:
24 IP, 11 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 43 SO, 17 saves,