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ALMOST A PERFECT DAY PEREZ THROWS ONE-HIT BEAUTY AS DODGERS EMBARRASS CUBS DODGERS 10, CHICAGO 0.

Byline: Brian Dohn Staff Writer

CHICAGO - The air was crisp, the sun gleaming and the sky a brilliant blue. From the upper stretches of fabled Wrigley Field, the view of Lake Michigan was majestic.

All that kept Friday from being a perfect day was a 15 mph breeze blowing in from center field that dropped the game-time temperature to a chilly 43 degrees.

And an ill-manicured speck of infield the size of dime.

Speedy Corey Patterson's bad-hop infield single to lead off the seventh inning kept Dodgers lefty Odalis Perez from pitching the second perfect game in club history. Perez settled for a one-hit gem in which he pitched his first career shutout, a 10-0 thrashing of the Chicago Cubs, and faced the minimum 27 batters.

``It's very nice,'' Perez said. ``I got good help from my teammates, 10 runs, and it makes it easier for me. I feel very happy with my approach and I would like to continue doing it. If I take this approach every time, it would be easy for anybody. If you throw strikes where you want it, it's easy for you.''

Perez, acquired from Atlanta in the Gary Sheffield trade in January, has both complete games for the Dodgers this season. He is 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA in his last three starts.

``(Perez) didn't warm up all that well and I was a little worried,'' Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn said. ``He had a great changeup warming up, but that doesn't always go over to the game. Before the game he said, 'Oh, it's cold today.' I said, 'Yeah, the batters don't like it.' ''

Indeed, the batters detested everything Perez (3-1) threw. He used a dazzling 91-pitch blend of fastballs, changeups and sliders, and retired the first 18 batters he faced in a bid to join Sandy Koufax as the only Dodgers to throw perfect games. Koufax did it to the Cubs 1-0 on Sept. 9, 1965. That was the last time the Cubs have been no-hit.

With anticipation building and history unfolding, Patterson began the seventh with a bouncer past Perez. Sure-handed shortstop Cesar Izturis ranged toward second base to field the ball but had it bounce awkwardly toward his left shoulder.

``When I saw it bounce past Odalis, I said, 'Oh, I got it,' '' Izturis said. ``Then it bounced on my chest. It's (ticking) me off because it's a routine play, but it kind of kicked to my shoulder. It was a tough play.''

Izturis trapped the ball against his body before gathering it and throwing to Eric Karros at first base. Patterson, who reached first in 3.99 seconds, was a step ahead of the throw.

Composed and confident beyond his 23 years, Perez didn't waver nor point fingers at what might have been if Patterson's ball bounced a few inches either way. Perez, who admitted to thinking about a perfect game in the sixth inning, simply got Chris Stynes to ground into a double play to erase the baserunner, then retired the next 10 batters.

``In my opinion, it took a guy with the speed of Corey Patterson to get to first base,'' Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. ``Izturis would have thrown anybody else out and it would have been a perfect game. It's tough, but I'm sure a one-hit shutout will not disappoint (Perez), but as well as he pitched, you would have really liked to have seen the hit be a hard line drive or a hard ground ball up the middle.''

In all, the Cubs hit five balls out of the infield, three of which were lazy flies to right fielder Shawn Green in the sixth inning. Perez got 12 ground-ball outs, including a high chopper back to the mound by Augie Ojeda for the final out.

``He threw strikes, he changed speeds and he kept the ball away,'' Cubs manager Don Baylor said. ``It was nothing he overpowered anybody with. It was a lot of easy outs.''

Perez was coming off a complete-game win at Colorado and what should have been his first career shutout until a muffed fly ball in the ninth inning. He left after 8 2/3 innings and one run.

Despite a need to constantly blow on his hand to combat the cold, Perez's pitching was much more slick than the cover of the baseball.

He struck out six and threw 91 pitches, 62 of which were strikes, in tossing the 25th complete-game one-hitter in Los Angeles Dodgers history. It was the first since Ismael Valdes one-hit Pittsburgh on June 27, 1998. Perez is the first Dodgers pitcher to face the minimum 27 batters since Tim Belcher's one-hit, one-walk outing July 21, 1990, in Pittsburgh.

He had two three-ball counts, both in the early part of the game. He struck out Mark Bellhorn in the second inning with a full count, and got Sammy Sosa to line out to Karros on a 3-1 offering in the fourth. It was the closest thing to a Cubs hit other than Patterson's single.

``His fastball was good and I think that set the whole tone,'' Dodgers catcher Paul Lo Duca said. ``He was throwing his fastball where he wanted to for strikes. It had good movement, good sink. That set everything else up and made everything else effective. He was dominating. I didn't think he could top Colorado and he's done better the last two outings. All I can say is 'Wow.' It really a shame, though, because he should have had a perfect game.''

ONE-HIT WONDERS

Left-hander Odalis Perez threw the 25th complete-game one-hitter in Los Angeles Dodgers history Friday in a 10-0 victory against the Chicago Cubs. It was the 30th one-hitter by a Dodgers pitcher since they moved from Brooklyn. A list of one-hitters thrown by the Dodgers in the past 10 years:

Date Pitcher(s) Opponent Score

Aug. 5, 1999 Hideo Nomo at San Francisco 3-0

June 27, 1998 Ismael Valdes Pittsburgh 2-0

July 20, 1998 Darren Dreifort/Jeff Shaw Cincinnati 2-0

July 19, 2000 Kevin Brown/Mike Fetters at Colorado 9-1

Aug. 29, 2000 Chan Ho Park/Mike Fetters at Milwaukee 7-2

Friday Odalis Perezat Chicago 10-0

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

(color) An ecstatic Odalis Perez (41) is hugged by a teammate as he walks off the mound Friday after his one-hitter.

Stephen J. Carrera/Associated Press

Box:

ONE-HIT WONDERS (see text)
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:Apr 27, 2002
Words:1065
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