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Dodgers Turn to Lima to Get Key Victory

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LOS ANGELES (AP) _ He sings, he dances. He serves as the Dodgers' unofficial cheerleader, racing nonstop around the dugout and constantly pumping his teammates up.

Most important, Jose Lima pitches _ and very well at Dodger Stadium.

He'll pitch there Saturday night against the St. Louis Cardinals in the most important start of his life.

After beating Los Angeles by identical 8-3 scores in the first two games of the best-of-five NL division series in St. Louis, the heavy-hitting Cardinals can put the Dodgers away with another victory.

Ever the optimist, Lima sees a bright side.

``If we win and push the series to Sunday, anything can happen,'' he said Friday _ an off day in the series. ``I've got to come and give my heart to this team. If we lose, it's see you in spring training.

``I want to stay in the playoffs a little longer _ at least get to Sunday.''

Lima sang ``God Bless America'' and the national anthem before the Dodgers' game against the Cubs on May 13. He also performed with his band, Banda Mambo, at the team's annual Viva Los Dodgers Hispanic Heritage festival, and performed at The Conga Room, a Los Angeles nightclub, later that night.

On the late-night flight from St. Louis to Los Angeles after the Dodgers lost Game 2, Lima behaved the same way he would have had his team won the first two games.

``He was thinking about this game at 4:30 this morning. He was playing his music on the bus, so he was getting fired up already,'' Dodgers closer Eric Gagne said. ``He changed the mood a little bit because everyone was down.''

That's understandable, especially considering how they lost the first two games.

First, the Los Angeles starters, Odalis Perez and Jeff Weaver, weren't effective, combining to allow 12 runs in 7 1-3 innings.

The Cardinals scored 13 of their 16 runs with two outs.

``You get two outs, you've got two-thirds of the job done in any given half inning,'' Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. ``You get the first two outs against this club, you've still got another one to get.

``You don't just win 105 baseball games during the course of the regular season by sitting around in a fireside chat and say, `Hey, we're gong to win 105 this year.' There's a lot of elements that go into that. There are a lot of little things that you have to do.''

Finally, the Dodgers failed to come through in the clutch.

The Cardinals won Game 1 with the long ball, hitting five homers.

They won Game 2 thanks to the bottom of their lineup; Edgar Renteria, Reggie Sanders and Mike Matheny, the sixth, seventh and eighth hitters, went 8-for-10 with five runs and five RBIs.

The Dodgers drew seven walks in Game 2, but their only runs came on three solo homers.

``I think the one thing about this team _ we've been playing our best baseball all year with our backs against the wall,'' said Dodgers outfielder Jayson Werth, who hit one of those homers. ``I think that would definitely be the case as we go into the weekend.''

Lima, who went 9-1 with a 3.08 ERA in Los Angeles and was 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA overall, will oppose Matt Morris, 15-10 with a 4.72 ERA.

``We feel good any time he goes out there,'' Cardinals outfielder Jim Edmonds said of Morris, the St. Louis ace in recent years but inconsistent this season.

Morris went 6-6 with a 6.02 ERA on the road.

Morris pitched his best game of the year against the Dodgers on Sept. 3, allowing just two hits and striking out a season-high 11 in a 3-0 victory in St. Louis.

``We've put ourselves in a great spot, but I'm still going out there with the mentality that this could be the last game that I pitch this year,'' Morris said. ``There is a little leeway, so I'm just going to relax and make pitches, do the right thing and play the game hard and let our offense do what it's been doing all year.

``Their backs are to the wall, so they're going to be fighting a little harder than normal. So if I can use their aggressiveness to my advantage, change speeds, make pitches and get some zeros early, hopefully we can put a couple of runs off Lima and let our bullpen take care of the rest.''

The Dodgers haven't won a postseason game since winning the 1988 World Series over Oakland, dropping eight straight. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa managed the A's 16 years ago, and the first World Series game he ever managed was at Dodger Stadium.

``If we lose tomorrow, we'll tip our caps because we will be ready to play,'' La Russa said. ``It's total respect for the game and respect for the Dodgers. We're in a good position, but Lima's been very tough in this ballpark.''
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