Lima has always talked the talk; Saturday he walked the walk
Posted: Sunday October 10, 2004 1:55AM; Updated: Sunday October 10, 2004 1:55AM
Saturday night's 106-pitch gem was Jose Lima's second career shutout.
LOS ANGELES -- Jose Lima is a kid on three liters of Hawaiian Punch. He's a preacher in a room full of sinners, a chocoholic in Hershey, Pa. He is hyper, he is hysterical, he is practically in heaven.
He has just pitched the game of his long and not-all-that distinguished career, in front of the largest Dodger Stadium crowd in 16 years, on national TV, in an elimination game in the playoffs, and he has a few things to say.
Now, Lima has always been wound a little on the tight end. He always has a few thousand things to say. And he's never shy about saying them, either.
Saturday night, he just had a few more people to listen to him.
"You see the fans, the way they react?" he asks a reporter in front of the scrum outside his locker. "It doesn't get better than this right here."
And then, later ... "You can't mess with Lima Time today."
And then, in the next breath ... "Going all the way from the Newark Bears to here? Whoooooooo."
And, later ... "I don't know if I should cry or jump in the stands."
Lima pitched a beauty on Saturday in Game 3 of the Dodgers' National League Division Series against the Cardinals, a five-hit complete game shutout that kept the Dodgers from ending their season, right then and there, in front of the 55,992 fans at Dodger Stadium.
It was a pressure-packed tour de force, a 106-pitch gem that sent the powerful Cardinals back to their L.A. hotel rooms shaking their heads and, probably, covering their ears. The Cardinals, remember, had handled the Dodgers so easily in the first two games of this first-to-three series -- twin 8-3 wins back in St. Louis -- that Game 3 seemed pretty much a formality.
But they didn't count on Lima, a 32-year-old right-hander who wears his heart on his sleeve and wears out anyone who will listen. With a dizzying repertoire of stuff -- changeups, sinkers, sliders, some of those wavy, roller-coaster things you see only in Bugs Bunny cartoons -- Lima confounded the Cards, 4-0, to force a Game 4 here Sunday afternoon.
"Well, I mean, he pitched nine innings against our club and shut them out," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said simply. "It's an outstanding pitching performance."
Said Dodgers manager Jim Tracy: "That's not bad for someone who came to spring training not guaranteed a job."
Lima has gone from non-roster invitee this spring to season savior on Saturday. It's the latest reincarnation for a player who has been to Detroit, Kansas City, Houston -- let's not forget Newark of the Independent League -- and back.
He started 24 games for the Dodgers this season, coming out of the bullpen in 12 others (he was 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA overall), but none of the games in his 11-year career have come close to Saturday's. He allowed only one Cardinals hitter to third base. He struck out only four, and he walked only one. He faced only five batters more than the minimum.
And the whole time he was talking. To his catcher. To his other teammates. Into his glove, to himself.
It's what he does. Probably what he does best.
"I kept telling myself, 'Get the first out. Get the first out,'" he said.
When he laid down a key bunt in the second inning that helped the Dodgers to an early 2-0 lead, he said something else: "Can I tell you? I say 'I'm the man.'"
Talking, of course, is not all that Lima does. He screams on the mound, he pumps his fists, he drops to his knees. He has more faces than Jim Carrey. He does a cheerleader better than Will Farrell.
It might bug his rivals, but Lima has been doing this for so long -- and it is so apparently a genuine part of his personality -- that they don't seem to mind.
"Lima has always been Lima. He tries to get you caught up in his world," said the Cardinals' Reggie Sanders. "He did tonight."
In the end, Lima finished off the night with a perfect 1-2-3 ninth, leaving super closer Eric Gagne to watch from the bullpen. When he got Jim Edmonds to pop up to end the game, Lima dropped to his knee in front of the mound as his teammates rushed up to hug and congratulate him.
As he was kneeling there in the grass, as the thousands of blue-clad Dodgers fans cheered, Lima thought about his grandmother, who passed away a couple of months ago. He thought about his son. He thought about his wife.
And then, of course, he thought about what he wanted to say.