Thursday, April 10, 2003

NL Games

Walker finds his stroke

By John Mossman
The Associated Press

DENVER - After looking lost at the plate in his first few games, Larry Walker might have found his stroke again. Walker, a three-time NL batting champion who entered Wednesday night's game hitting just .172, drove in three runs with a double and a triple as the Colorado Rockies beat the St. Louis Cardinals 9-4.

"I got some pitches I could hit, and I hit them today," Walker said. "In the past, I haven't been hitting them. I'm just trying to put the ball in play with authority, instead of breaking bats and hitting weak groundballs. I'm trying not to pull off of everything. I've been flying open on every pitch."

Walker, who tried to change his routine by not taking batting practice before the game, admitted his failure to deliver in a crucial situation of Tuesday night's 15-12, 13-inning loss motivated him. With the bases loaded in the 11th, he grounded into a 1-2-3 double play.

"When situations like last night come up and I stink the place up like that, that will stick with you for a while," he said.

Manager Clint Hurdle said he wasn't worried about his slugger's slow start.

"He's made a couple of adjustments," Hurdle said. "He's going to be fine. And when it comes, it's going to come in bunches. All you have to do is look at the back of his gum card."

Preston Wilson also drove in three runs. He and Bobby Estalella each hit two-run homers as Colorado built a 9-0 lead after three innings.

Nelson Cruz (2-0), making his second straight start because of injuries to Denny Neagle and Denny Stark, went six-plus innings for the Rockies, allowing two runs and five hits before he was ejected.

Cruz was tossed in the seventh by plate umpire Mike DiMuro after hitting Tino Martinez with a pitch. Cruz plunked Jim Edmonds earlier, and DiMuro issued a warning to both benches after Brett Tomko threw a pitch behind Todd Helton in the third. Cruz's ejection meant an automatic ejection for Hurdle, too.

"All my career I've wanted an opportunity to start at the major league level," said Cruz, who came to spring training as a bullpen candidate. "They know now that I can start and that I can do both."

Tomko (0-1) gave up nine runs on nine hits in six innings. Edgar Renteria hit a three-run double for St. Louis, and Scott Rolen added a solo homer.

Giants 15, Padres 11

SAN FRANCISCO - Pedro Feliz had a career-high four hits for San Francisco as the Giants beat the San Diego Padres 15-11 Wednesday in the highest-scoring game at 3-year-old Pacific Bell Park.

The first inning alone featured 11 runs. The Giants' first seven batters scored against Dennis Tankersley (0-1), called up from the minors to make an emergency start.

Yorvit Torrealba drove in three runs for the defending NL champions and Jose Cruz Jr. doubled to give him a hit in all nine games this season with his new team.

Ryan Klesko splashed a homer into McCovey Cove and drove in two runs for the Padres. Rondell White hit a three-run homer in the first.

Joe Nathan (1-0) gave up one hit in two innings.

Cubs 3, Expos 0

CHICAGO - Mark Prior pitched his first major league shutout, striking out 12 and outdueling Javier Vazquez as Chicago beat Montreal.

Prior (2-0) scattered four hits and walked none in the second complete game of his young career.

The 22-year-old right-hander retired 16 straight batters at one point. He allowed only one extra-base hit, a double by Orlando Cabrera in the seventh inning.

Vazquez (1-1) lost despite striking out a career-high 14 in seven innings. He also walked none and gave up five hits, including a two-run homer by Damian Miller.

Prior added an insurance run in the eighth, faking a bunt and then swinging away for an RBI single. Miller also had a single and a double, finishing 3-for-3.

Dodgers 5, Diamondbacks 2

LOS ANGELES - Darren Dreifort pitched six strong innings to earn his first victory in almost 22 months, and Shawn Green homered and drove in three runs as Los Angeles won for the third time in four games.

Luis Gonzalez hit his third homer in three games for Arizona, which has lost six of seven.

Dreifort (1-1) allowed two runs and six hits in his first win since June 12, 2001. The 30-year-old right-hander tore a ligament and a tendon in his pitching elbow three starts later, and didn't return until last Friday night in San Diego.

Eric Gagne got his second save in as many chances.

Byung-Hyun Kim (0-2) allowed four runs and five hits in six innings.

Phillies 16, Braves 2

PHILADELPHIA - Greg Maddux was hit hard for the third straight start, and Pat Burrell and Jim Thome each homered twice and drove in five runs to lead Philadelphia over Atlanta.

Maddux (0-3) is off to his worst start since 1989, when he also lost his first three decisions for the Chicago Cubs.

Maddux was touched for 10 runs, seven earned, and 12 hits in 5 2-3 innings. He struck out seven, but walked three and made a throwing error, a rare mistake for the Gold Glover.

The four-time Cy Young winner has allowed 18 earned runs and 30 hits in 14 2-3 innings, leaving him with an 11.05 ERA.

Burrell homered twice off Maddux. Thome hit his first two home runs for the Phillies, connecting both times off rookie reliever Joey Dawley.

Phillies starter Vicente Padilla (1-1) went seven innings.

Marlins 3, Mets 2

MIAMI - Ivan Rodriguez homered and drove home the winning run with a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth inning for Florida.

Rodriguez made the key defensive play, too. After Armando Almanza hit Mo Vaughn with a pitch to start the ninth, pinch-runner Joe McEwing was picked off first base by Rodriguez, a perennial Gold Glove winner.

Braden Looper (1-0) struck out his only two batters for the win.

Mike Stanton (0-1), who hadn't allowed a run in his first four appearances of the season, took the loss. Jeromy Burnitz homered for the Mets.

Florida's A.J. Burnett, making his first start after beginning the season on the disabled list, allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings.

Brewers 3, Pirates 2

PITTSBURGH - Geoff Jenkins, playing for the first time since tearing up his right ankle last season, hit a two-run homer to support Todd Ritchie's strong start for Milwaukee.

It was a comeback night for Ritchie (1-0), who ended a nearly yearlong road losing streak, and Jenkins, who spent months in rehabilitation after tearing ligaments inside and outside his dislocated ankle June 17 in Houston.

Ritchie gave up two runs and five hits in 7 1-3 innings. Jenkins homered off Josh Fogg (1-1) as the Brewers won their second straight following an 0-6 start.

Kenny Lofton hit a two-run triple for Pittsburgh before Mike DeJean earned his second save in as many nights.

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