Dodgers Mourn Passing of Favorite Son Jose Lima and Then Fall to Tigers

May 23, 2010

Los Angeles - After winning 12 of their last 13 games and tying the first-place San Diego Padres for the NL West lead, the Los Angeles Dodgers awoke Sunday morning to the tragic news that ex-Dodger pitcher Jose Lima had died of an apparent heart attack at the young age of 37.

Lima's death jolted the franchise with a sobering dose of reality, as an otherwise beautiful day at Chavez Ravine was instead filled with a moment of silence, flags flown at half mast, and a sixth inning Lima highlight reel. In the end, Lima's passing made the Dodgers interleague, 6-2 loss to the Detroit Tigers seem somewhat trivial in comparison.

In retrospect, given his strong impact on the franchise, it is astonishing to think that Lima played only one season for The Azul.

In that brief time Lima posted a successful 13-5 record and 4.07 ERA, relying largely on just his guts and pitching knowledge.

More importantly, Lima changed the clubhouse culture with the sheer force of his ebullient personality, as he infused the team with confidence, energy, and an increased passion for the game.

Games that he started simply became known as "Lima Time." Moreover, the sound of Lima singing became a common occurrence, not just in the locker room, but on the field as well.

Prior to Lima's arrival, the franchise had endured 16 years of failure and playoff sweep losses since winning its last title in 1988.

So it was no coincidence that Lima finally was the guy to take a stand and stop the postseason bleeding. Lima's clutch 5-hit shutout against St. Louis in the 2004 NLDS righted the franchise ship to a degree, and started the Dodgers on their upward trend of the last 5 years.

As a result, Lima and the Dodger fans formed a unique, strong bond. That bond was evidenced as recently as Friday, when Lima was given an enthusiastic ovation while attending the Dodgers-Tigers game.

As for Sunday's contest - an afterthought for many - things started off bad for Los Angeles and went downhill from there.

Dodger right-hander Hiroki Kuroda gave up hits to three of the first four batters that he faced, including an RBI single to Magglio Ordonez and a 2-run blast to Miguel Cabrera. By the end of the first inning, Detroit enjoyed a 3-0 lead.

Kuroda eventually settled down, shutting out Detroit over the next five innings while giving up only three more hits during that stretch. Of Kuroda's 88 pitches, 60 went for strikes. Unfortunately, he did not get much help from his teammates.

In the fourth inning with two outs and runners on first and third, Casey Blake grounded out, ending a potential Dodgers rally.

Later in the fifth, after a clutch Xavier Paul two-out single to left narrowed the deficit to 3-2, Matt Kemp stepped to the plate and hit a warning track fly ball to close the inning.

But the key out of the game was recorded in the sixth inning with the Tigers clinging to a 3-2 lead, the bases loaded, two outs, and Manny Ramirez pinch hitting. Ramirez, owner of 21 career grand slams, could not add to his tally, as he hit a first-pitch chopper to third and was easily thrown out.

Meanwhile, Detroit starter Rick Porcello had a solid outing on the mound, giving up only two runs in six innings of work. Porcello must have thought he was in a dodgeball game, as he had three line drives hit directly at him, including one which hit him on the arm and another which struck his leg.

Magglio Ordonez also had an excellent afternoon for Detroit, going 2 for 4 with two RBI's. His eighth-inning solo blast off Ronald Belisario provided the Tigers with all the insurance they would need en route to their 6-2 victory.

Detroit now trails Minnesota by one game in the AL Central.

Although the loss dropped the Dodgers one game behind San Diego in the standings and prevented their three game sweep of Detroit, plenty of optimism should remain with the squad.

Los Angeles has dug itself out of a 6-games-under-.500 hole thanks to some excellent starting pitching during the month of May. Moreover, much of that success has occurred without the presence of injured stars Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier in the lineup.

Besides, an occasional home loss is virtually insignificant when one considers the grand scheme of things.

And no group is more painfully aware of such irrelevance than the Dodger Family, who suffered a true loss on Sunday . . . off of the diamond.

By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for

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