LOS ANGELES (AP)—Eric Gagne usually bails out the Dodgers. This time, he needed his teammates’ help to preserve his consecutive saves streak.
Gagne got the first two-inning save of his career, although he nearly blew it in the eighth when the tying run was thrown out at the plate. Shawn Green and Alex Cora combined on a flawless relay that saved Gagne.
It was his 52nd consecutive save this season, and his major league-record 60th in a row dating to Aug. 28, 2002.
“Pretty exciting,” Gagne said, smiling. “I had a lot of energy going on, maybe I had too much. I wasn’t focused enough. I just needed to go out there and get my mind straight.”
The Dodgers are 2 1/2 games behind Florida in the NL wild-card race. Los Angeles plays seven of its final 11 games against NL West champion San Francisco, beginning Friday at home.
“A game that we absolutely had to have was won in dramatic fashion,” Dodgers manager Jim Tracy said. “We pretty much rode the home run by Robin Ventura all night long.”
Alvarez (6-1) blanked the Diamondbacks on four hits over seven innings, extending his scoreless streak to 22 innings. The left-hander struck out four and walked one in winning his fourth straight start. He shut out San Diego on four hits last Friday.
“He’s been throwing the ball really well for us all year, and he just picked us up again,” Gagne said. “It’s just a huge win.”
Tracy thought Alvarez got away from throwing first-pitch strikes, and Gagne hadn’t pitched since Monday so the manager brought him in early.
“I was ready for it,” Gagne said. “I got my shoes tied and I was ready to go.”
The Diamondbacks, who had won four in a row against the Dodgers, nearly tied it in the eighth.
Gagne gave up a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Carlos Baerga, and Steve Finley doubled just inside the right-field line with one out. Green made a strong relay throw to Cora, who cut down pinch-runner Craig Counsell at the plate.
Junior Spivey struck out to end the threat.
“It was an awesome play by Greenie,” catcher Paul Lo Duca said. “Down in those corners, they’re so tricky. The ball came off clean, he made a great relay and AC made a great throw. Everything was executed perfectly.”
In the ninth, Gagne retired pinch-hitter Felix Jose with runners at second and third to finish it.
“That’s more noise than we’ve made against Gagne in three years combined,” Arizona manager Bob Brenly said.
Miguel Batista (10-9) gave up one run on four hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked one.
Ventura started at first base in place of Fred McGriff, who got the night off.
Ventura didn’t waste any time making his presence felt. He led off the second with his fourth homer of the season, hitting a 1-0 pitch into the right-field seats for a 1-0 lead.
“The way Wilson’s been pitching, he’s been able to work with that,” Ventura said. “We squeezed another one across. That helps us out when Eric comes in.”
Ventura played solid defense, too, turning a double play to end the sixth. Luis Gonzalez hit a shot down the first-base line that Ventura picked up andfired to Cora, who threw back to Ventura in time to get Gonzalez.
It was the Dodgers’ major league-leading 16th shutout of the season. … Alvarez’s streak of 22 scoreless innings is the longest by any Dodgers pitcher this season. … The Dodgers began Thursday 3 1/2 games behind Florida in the wild-card race. In 1965, they were 3 1/2 behind San Francisco on Sept. 18 and went on to win 11 straight and 13 of their final 14 games to clinch the pennant by two games. The Dodgers beat Minnesota in seven games to win the World Series. … Jolbert Cabrera started for Roberts in center, although he entered in the eighth when Cabrera moved to left field to replace Jeromy Burnitz. …The Dodgers took a 48-47 lead in the all-time series between the teams.