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Candiotti Laughs Last in Victory : Baseball: He gets a little behind in pitching Dodgers past Cardinals, 5-1.

June 01, 1993|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. LOUIS — Tom Candiotti's knuckleball was barely touched through nine easy innings, but his rear end proved to be eminently more hittable.

The Dodgers had reason to chortle again Monday after their 5-1 defeat of the St. Louis Cardinals before 40,208 at Busch Stadium, and Candiotti had reason to practice evasive moves under fire.

The victory, with their portable patch of dugout grass still along for the ride, came one day after the Pittsburgh Pirates ended the Dodgers' 11-game winning streak. Their record through four games of this six-game trip is 3-1, after entering the trip with a 0-9 mark on artificial surfaces.

Nobody really wanted to talk about that, though. They were too busy laughing.

Wrapping up what would be a complete-game four-hitter, Candiotti was pitching to Gregg Jefferies with none out in the ninth inning when Ozzie Smith tried to steal second base.

Catcher Mike Piazza lunged for the low knuckleball and fired in the general direction of second base, while barely out of his crouch.

The throw was interrupted by another, somewhat larger target--Candiotti's backside.

Candiotti, who was turned away from the plate, had an expression of bewilderment, but only minor pain. Then he hit the dirt, a bit late.

Candiotti and Piazza became the, ahem, butt of clubhouse humor.

"You looked like a big ol' buck who just figured out he'd been shot," reserve outfielder Mitch Webster told Candiotti, "and was starting to slowly fall on over."

Candiotti grinned but didn't bare it.

Said Piazza: "When we walked into the clubhouse, they yelled, 'Look out!' when they saw me and all the pitchers started running. I guess it's going to be a thing now, a good highlight.

"My intentions were good, though. Just enlivening another dull game, I guess."

What did he say to Candiotti when he came up to the mound after the direct hit?

"Wasn't much to say," said Piazza, who had two singles. "I just dusted him off. He had a lot of dust on his back. I'm kind of glad he fell down. If he didn't, I'd have been embarrassed--my arm's not strong enough."

The only lasting result, other than Smith scoring one out later on a sacrifice fly, was a big, round welt located where you think it would be.

"Yeah, I saw it," Piazza said. "I was sort of putting my gun back in my holster."

So it goes for the merry band of traveling Dodgers, who smacked Cardinal starter Bob Tewksbury (4-5) for 11 hits and five runs in five innings and totaled 13 hits.

After failing on several two-out scoring opportunities in Sunday's 5-3 loss at Pittsburgh, the Dodgers scored their first three runs on two-out hits, with one run in each of the first three innings. The Dodgers were five for eight with two out in those innings.

Right-fielder Cory Snyder, continuing his hot hitting in place of Darryl Strawberry, had one of those hits, a single to score Eric Davis in the third inning, then made it 5-0 with a two-run homer run deep into the seats in left field in the fifth.

Eric Karros added three singles, scoring once.

While the Dodgers were hitting, the Cardinals were missing Candiotti's knuckleballs regularly. Three of the four hits against him never left the infield, and St. Louis didn't get a hard hit until Smith's single in the ninth.

"It's the first time this season I've pitched without anything on my nail at all, went au natural ," said Candiotti (3-4), who has been nursing a fingernail injury and entered the game with 4.47 earned-run average overall and an 0-4 record in five road starts.

In all three of the Dodgers' victories on the trip, they have entered the ninth with a chance at a shutout, and in all three, they have lost it.

But they were not complaining, just counting up the victories.

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