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RELIEVERS STAND FIRM AS BATTERS RELOAD DODGERS' BULLPEN SHUTS DOWN GIANTS, PAVES WAY FOR NINTH-INNING COMEBACK.

Byline: Rich Hammond Staff Writer

The Dodgers don't have their names on their jerseys anymore, but when reliever Buddy Carlyle entered the game in the fourth inning Tuesday, he might as well have had ``innings-eater'' stitched on his back.

By the time Carlyle came in, the Giants had pounded starter Jeff Weaver and taken an 8-3 lead, and it seemed that the best the Dodgers could hope for was to avoid overtaxing the bullpen for the rest of the week. But that's not what Carlyle thought as he climbed the mound.

``I knew if the bullpen could keep us in the game, the offense would bring us back,'' Carlyle said. ``With the way our guys swing the bats, I just wanted to get through a couple innings and give us a chance.''

The bullpen did just that, as Carlyle, D.J. Houlton and Giovanni Carrara combined to allow only seven baserunners in six shutout innings to set up the Dodgers' four-run, ninth-inning rally in their 9-8 victory.

``On some teams, when it's 8-3, the game is probably over,'' Houlton said. ``You start thinking about yourself a little bit, like you can go in and work on some things, get some strikeouts and things like that. But on this team, you don't ever give up. I just wanted to get us some outs.''

The strong effort from the bullpen kept the Dodgers in the game, but it also allowed the group to earn a measure of respect after a rough first week of the season without injured closer Eric Gagne.

Going into Tuesday, the Dodgers' bullpen had blown saves in two of the first six games and had allowed 14 earned runs in 19 2/3 innings for a group ERA of 6.41.

But against the Giants, Carlyle, Houlton and Carrara each pitched two innings, and none allowed a baserunner to reach third base.

``I'm very happy that Houlton and Carlyle had a chance to show their stuff,'' pitching coach Jim Colborn said. ``I feel like this is the kind of thing both of them are capable of.''

Tuesday's effort was even more remarkable considering that it didn't include Yhency Brazoban or Duaner Sanchez, the Dodgers' preferred late- inning relievers with Gagne on the shelf. Instead, the Dodgers' best relief effort of the season came from Carrara, a well-traveled setup man, Carlyle, who had 11 games of major-league experience before this year, and Houlton, who had none.

``We've got some guys in this bullpen who can throw strikes and who aren't afraid to go after hitters,'' Houlton said. ``We might not have the best stuff in the world, but when you can throw strikes, that can be just as intimidating as blowing guys away. All we're trying to do is throw strikes.''

The biggest effort of the day probably came from Carlyle, a 27-year-old right-hander who hadn't been in the majors since a four-appearance stint with San Diego in 2000. Weaver left the game after allowing Pedro Feliz's three-run home run with no outs in the fourth, leaving Carlyle to quiet a San Francisco lineup that had totaled 11 hits in three-plus innings.

Carlyle stopped the Giants cold by inducing three consecutive flyball outs to end the fourth, then retired the side in order in the fifth. Houlton stranded runners on second base in each of his two innings.

Carrara, who before Tuesday had faced seven batters and allowed three earned runs, put runners on first and second with one out in the ninth but got Ray Durham to fly out and Omar Vizquel to ground out.

``The whole bullpen today was unbelievable,'' Carlyle said. ``You always have to take the same approach out there, whether it's 10-1 or 2-1, and we were able to get the job done.''

Rich Hammond, (818) 713-3611

rich.hammond(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Dodgers reliever Giovanni Carrara, along with teammates Buddy Carlyle and D.J. Houlton, combined to shut down San Francisco's offense for the last six innings. The Dodgers were able to rally for a 9-8 victory in their home opener on Tuesday afternoon.

Hans Gutknecht/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 13, 2005
Words:688
Previous Article:DODGERS NOTEBOOK: INTERNATIONAL BASEBALL TOURNEY CLOSER TO REALITY.
Next Article:STILL THE GIANTS' HOUSE OF HORRORS.


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