Dodgers 6, Cubs 1

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LOS ANGELES (AP)—It was just like old times for Wilson Alvarez and Robin Ventura, who are teammates again—in different uniforms.

Alvarez scattered four hits over seven scoreless innings in a spot start, and Ventura capped a four-run first inning with a two-run homer as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 6-1 on Saturday night for their sixth straight victory.

Monday is the 12th anniversary of the left-hander’s no-hitter for the Chicago White Sox against Baltimore—which was only his second big league game. And this outing provided Ventura with some pleasant memories of that day—and many others.

“It’s odd now for me to watch him pitch on a different team,” said Ventura, who played seven seasons with Alvarez on the South side of Chicago.

“Sometimes, when you haven’t played with somebody for a while, and then you’re playing with him again on a different team, I think you sometimes have little flashbacks where you’re seeing something from a few years ago—maybe a facial expression or body language or something. It happened a couple of times.”

Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said before the game he would use All-Star closer Eric Gagne for the fifth straight day—something he’s never done—if a save situation warranted. But Alvarez (2-1) gave Gagne the night off with help from Paul Shuey, who pitched two innings and allowed a homer by Damian Miller in the eighth.

Alvarez retired 17 of his last 18 batters, struck out six and walked none in his third start this season and first since July 13—delaying Chicago manager Dusty Baker’s 900th regular-season victory for at least another day.

“I relaxed a little more when I saw the scoreboard, but I still had to concentrate on making my pitches because there are three of four guys in that lineup who can really hurt you,” said Alvarez, who filled in while Kazuhisa Ishii is on the disabled list with an injured knee. “I located my fastball pretty good. The whole key was getting the fastball in.”

The 12-year veteran gave up singles to his first two batters, who were quickly erased—Doug Glanville on a pickoff at first, and Ramon Martinez on a double-play grounder by Sammy Sosa. Alvarez also stranded a runner at third base in the second by striking out Alex Gonzalez.

Dave Roberts hit his first career inside-the-park home run leading off the Dodgers’ first. Roberts, whose hamstring problems have landed him on the DL twice this season, lined a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line leading off the first inning and circled the bases as the ball struck the front of the box seats and caromed past Moises Alou.

“In Atlanta, I legged out a triple and I felt a little fatigue in my leg, but tonight there was none. I could have kept running, and that was a good feeling for me,” Roberts said. “When I hit it, I was thinking of two. I was just coming around second and I saw it get by him, but I didn’t know by how far. And on that rubber track, it just kept going a little bit further. So I didn’t slow down.”

Matt Clement (9-10) allowed five runs, six hits and four walks in five innings.

It was the right-hander’s first start against the Dodgers since May 5, 2002, at Los Angeles—when he had a no-hitter through four innings and had to leave the game after getting hit on the right biceps by a pitch from Kevin Brown.

“Tonight was more frustrating than the last time,” Clement said. “You never expect to get hit with a pitch—especially one that knocks you out of a game where you’re throwing well. But that wasn’t even a thought because I like pitching here. It’s tough when you go out there with big expectations and be down 4-0 in the first.”

Shawn Green walked with one out, advanced to third on a single by Jeromy Burnitz and scored on Adrian Beltre’s sacrifice fly. Ventura followed with his second homer in eight games since joining the Dodgers in a July 31 trade with the New York Yankees.

Ventura, whose 16 career grand slams are the most among active players, came up with the bases loaded in the third and grounded out to first base to drive in the Dodgers’ fifth run. Alex Cora added an RBI single in the sixth againstAntonio Alfonseca.

Notes

Cubs 1B Eric Karros got a laugh out of his ex-manager about 45 minutes before gametime when he burst into Tracy’s office, pounded a bat on a coffee table and asked if he was in the Dodgers’ lineup. … The Dodgers have never drawn fewer fans in a season than the World Series champion Anaheim Angels, who play about 35 miles down the freeway—but it’s going to be close this time. Each team has played 59 home dates, with the Dodgers holding a lead of just 17,478. … Dodgers 1B Fred McGriff is scheduled to be activated from the DLnext Thursday after a three-game minor league rehab stint in Vero Beach, Fla.

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