<
>

Weaver gets three-hit complete game shutout

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- If this is the Los Angeles Dodgers' playoff
push, it's probably a little too late.

Jeff Weaver won for the seventh time in eight decisions,
pitching a three-hitter for his fifth career shutout and leading
the Dodgers over the Colorado Rockies 7-0 Monday night.

"We've waited until the last minute here, but we're playing
good baseball now," Weaver said. "We just have to grind out each
game, one by one."

Los Angeles closed within five games of the NL West-leading San
Diego Padres, who lost 4-3 at San Francisco. The Dodgers have
sliced three games off the Padres' lead in three days.

"We know our margin for error is very, very slim," manager Jim
Tracy said. "But that's not to say that with 19 games left, you
cannot come out here and collectively play very good baseball and
put together a nice streak. And if we can do that, who knows what
can happen?

"We still have three games left with the Padres, and there's
several games in between. So the important thing is that we keep
trying inch closer to them between now and the last three days of
the season."

Rookie Willy Aybar went 3-for-5 with an RBI single, and Jayson
Werth drove in two runs for the Dodgers, who tied a season high
with six doubles.

"I don't feel a sense of urgency," second baseman Jeff Kent
said. "We've been trying to gain ground almost all year, but I
don't see guys acting any different than earlier. And if they are,
then they weren't doing a good enough job before."

Weaver, Derek Lowe and Brad Penny have combined to allow four
runs in 24 2-3 innings over the last three games, giving the
Dodgers hope.

"They have veteran experience and they've been able to pitch
consistently," Kent said. "Yeah, they've had their ups and downs,
but I think our rotation has been more stable than any other team
in our division, which is a benefit -- especially down the
stretch."

Weaver (14-9) established a career high for victories, striking
out nine and walking one. He won 13 games for 2001 with Detroit and
matched that total last season, his first with the Dodgers.

"It's a lot easier when you have some runs to work with because
there's less pressure, so you just have to worry about going out
there and throwing strikes," Weaver said. "Sometimes when you get
a big lead, you just go through the motions. But I just focused and
told myself it was a 0-0 ballgame each inning, and it worked."

The complete game was the 12th in 206 career starts for Weaver
and his second this season, including a five-hit shutout on April
17 against San Diego. He became the first pitcher to throw a
complete game against the Rockies since Tom Glavine of the New York
Mets on May 23 last year.

"I couldn't be happier for Jeff Weaver, looking at the job that
he's done here over the last two years, being the workhorse of the
staff and pitching deep into games more times than not," Tracy
said. "To see this guy grow into what he's becoming now, you feel
awfully good about that."

Rookie Jeff Francis (12-12) allowed six runs -- five earned -- and
nine hits in four innings. He has yielded 111 earned runs in 30
starts, second-most in the NL to the 122 off Cincinnati's Eric
Milton.

"He really struggled to get any strikes on the close side. And
every time he went away, he elevated the ball," Rockies manager
Clint Hurdle said. "It's just part of a long season. But fatigue's
not a factor and there's a lot of fight left in him. He's a part of
our future, and this is an excellent challenge for him that he can
turn into a great learning experience."

Los Angeles went ahead on first-inning doubles by Aybar and
Kent, who needs one RBI to reach 100 for the eighth time. The
Dodgers made it 5-0 in the third as Olmedo Saenz and Jose Cruz Jr.
each doubled home a run, and Werth hit a two-run double.

Aybar and Kent singled in the fourth and executed a double
steal, with Aybar scoring on catcher J.D. Closser's wild throw past
third baseman Garrett Atkins -- Colorado's league-high 106th error.
Aybar had a run-scoring single in the fifth against David Cortez,
his first major league RBI.

Atkins went 0-for-2 and was hit by a pitch, ending his hitting
streak at 16 games. It was the longest this season by a rookie, and
tied Juan Pierre for the longest by a rookie in the Rockies'
13-year history.

Game notes
Weaver was called out for interference by plate umpire Greg
Gibson for making contact with Closser as the catcher tried to
throw out Werth at second base on an attempted bunt-and-run play in
the second inning. ... The Dodgers also had six doubles on May 6 at
Cincinnati. ... Francis has allowed 29 first-inning runs, the most
he's given up in any inning this season.