Dodger Rookie Enjoys Party

Times Staff Writer

One of Edwin Jackson’s teammates jokingly insisted the 20-year-old pitcher had hired a screenwriter to script his meteoric rise with the Dodgers.

The opening act definitely indicated blockbuster potential as Jackson shined in his major league debut Tuesday night -- a 4-1 Dodger victory over the reeling Arizona Diamondbacks at Bank One Ballpark.

The highly touted right-hander delivered a show-stopping performance before 36,488, working six strong innings while filling in for injured Hideo Nomo.


Jackson’s fastball was clocked as high as 98 mph as he gave up only four hits and one run on Robby Hammock’s sacrifice fly in the second. Moreover, the former double-A standout displayed poise while escaping a sixth-inning jam.

And if that wasn’t enough, the backdrop provided even more drama.

Jackson was thrust into a tight and tense National League wild-card race ... on the road ... on his birthday ... and against five-time Cy Young Award winner Randy Johnson. The Dodgers said Hollywood rarely comes up with stuff this good.

“Awesome,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said in the exuberant Dodger clubhouse.

“To have that demeanor for a 20-year-old kid, on his birthday, to throw like he did ... just awesome.

“He obviously has a very live arm, we know that, but he was in the strike zone all night. And to do it, especially in this setting is incredible. Against Randy Johnson, in your first game, on your 20th birthday to throw like he did. Incredible.”

Jackson appeared poised and in command throughout while providing the foundation for the surging Dodgers’ fifth victory in as many games on the trip. He threw 47 strikes in 79 pitches without a walk and four strikeouts, mixing breaking balls and changeups to keep the Diamondbacks (73-72) guessing and frustrated.

“You can see why the Dodgers are very excited about Jackson,” Arizona Manager Bob Brenly said. “He’s got a very live arm. His fastball was consistently in the low to mid 90s.


“He struggled with the command of his breaking ball. But he threw enough good ones that you could see the potential for the future there.”

Said Manager Jim Tracy: “That was terrific. Nothing short of it, especially under the circumstances.”

The Dodgers supported Jackson with three runs in the third as they batted around against Johnson (4-8). Lo Duca and Jolbert Cabrera had run-scoring singles in the inning, and Johnson hit Mike Kinkade with a pitch to force in a run. Alex Cora added an RBI single in the eighth.

Eric Gagne threw only 15 pitches in a 1-2-3 ninth inning, altering the record books again. He notched his 50th save in as many chances, extending his record for consecutive saves to 58. Gagne is also the only player in history with two 50-save seasons.

The Dodgers (77-66) have won 10 of 12 while keeping the pressure on Philadelphia and Florida in the tight wild-card race.

Although the Dodgers are still two games behind the co-leaders as another day got checked off the calendar, they are only one behind in the loss column as optimism abounds from Chavez Ravine to the desert.


An exuberant rookie’s outstanding outing provided another boost to a reinvigorated team.

“It’s like a fairy tale,” said Jackson, whom teammates doused in beer after his first major league victory.

“Your debut, Randy Johnson, first win, on your birthday with family right there to support you. It’s definitely exciting. All through the day, I thought I was going to be nervous, and I had a lot of people calling asking if I was going to be nervous.

“When I wasn’t nervous at all, it felt kind of weird. I went out with the mentality to have fun. I wanted to help my team, have fun

“Win or lose, just look in the mirror after the game and say that I gave it my best. Let circumstances be and be happy with myself.”

Said General Manager Dan Evans: “He’s special. He’s got a chance to be very special.”