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SHUTOUT FOR DODGERS’ BELCHER

SHARE SHUTOUT FOR DODGERS’ BELCHER

Tim Belcher isn't taking credit for a near-miracle. A three-hit shutout built on nothing fancy makes him think an abbreviated spring training didn't help anybody.

"I didn't do a lot of pitching out there," Belcher said after leading the Los Angeles Dodgers to a 1-0 victory Tuesday night over the San Diego Padres. "I threw an occasional good slider and one curveball and one changeup. Outside of that, I was just throwing fastball after fastball."I guess the 32-day lockout affected hitters as well because they just missed a couple of pitches," said Belcher, the major league leader in shutouts last year with eight. "I threw a lot of fastballs.

"I was fortunate in that respect. It wasn't overpowering, but it was enough."

Certainly enough to impress four-time National League batting champion Tony Gwynn.

"When he's on, he gets a good fastball up there and keeps the slider down," Gwynn said. "Then, he's one of the best pitchers in the game."

San Francisco's season opener at Atlanta was rained out and re-scheduled today as a twi-night doubleheader.

Belcher, now a winner of eight straight decisions dating to last season, hasn't lost since Aug. 15.

Asked if he considered taking Belcher out early because of the shortened spring training, Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda said, "Not as long as he was throwing like that."

Lasorda said he has learned to "expect the unexpected. This guy put on a pitching clinic tonight."

Belcher put on several last season when he won 15 games and tied San Diego's Bruce Hurst for the most complete games in the NL with 10.

There was little doubt that the Dodgers, who led the major leagues last season with a 2.95 team ERA, had enough pitching to make a run in the NL West. But offense - the worst in the majors - was another story, so they made some off-season moves.

The two most important brought Juan Samuel in a trade from the New York Mets and Hubie Brooks as a free agent from Montreal.

Both have paid immediate dividends. Brooks beat Hurst with a three-run homer on Monday, and Samuel provided the only run Tuesday with a solo shot.