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Rocky Mountain High (6 RBIs) for Mondesi : Dodgers: Outfielder has a career game as L.A. pulls within 2 1/2 games of Colorado, 9-6.

August 02, 1995|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — This town was out of control all day. The fans met the Colorado Rockies at the airport. They called the team offices for playoff tickets. They did everything but throw a ticker-tape parade.

The acquisition of two-time Cy Young Award winner Bret Saberhagen had Denver believing the National League West race was already over. The Dodgers were regarded as little more than a nuisance.

It took three swings of Raul Mondesi's bat to jolt them to their senses, and by the time Tuesday evening ended, they came to the realization this division race has only begun.

Mondesi hit two home runs and drove in a career-high six runs in the Dodgers' 9-6 victory over the Rockies, stunning the sellout crowd of 48,071 at Coors Field.

The Dodgers (46-42), winning for the 10th time in the last 13 games, cut the Rockies' lead to 2 1/2 games. It's the closest they've been to first place since July 5.

"That was a huge win for us tonight," said closer Todd Worrell, who saved his 19th game. "We have to come away with two out of three here just to slow them down. We've got to get them off that emotional high."

Leave it to Mondesi to spoil the Rocky Mountain fever.

"He proved tonight why he's one of the greatest players in this game," Rocky Manager Don Baylor said. "There's not many players who you can even compare to what he can do. He's one of the top three players in the league."

Considering the way Mondesi torments the Rockies, who can argue with Baylor? Mondesi has a .500 career batting average in Denver, and owns a .450 batting average with four homers and 18 runs batted in against the Rocky pitching staff.

"I kind of like this place," Mondesi said, unable to suppress his grin. "You just hit the ball, and watch it go. I think the last time I had a game like this was in Great Falls [Mont., of Pioneer League] in 1990."

The Dodgers have now produced 88 hits and 44 runs in four games at Coors Field, batting through the order four times, and scoring at least two runs in 14 of the 36 innings.

"Look at that team," Rocky shortstop Walt Weiss said. "They're as tailor-made for this park as we are. They're the one club who has done a lot of damage here."

Said Baylor: "I'll tell you one guy who's more comfortable than we are here, and that's Mondesi. He's a high-ball hitter, and we obliged. High slider. Left field. High fastball. Right field.

"I think he likes this park.

"Come to think of it, I think he likes our pitching staff."

The Mondesi show began in the first inning when he hit a 1-and-0 pitch 378 feet down the left-field line off Rocky starter Mark Thompson (2-2). Two innings later, he hit the first pitch off Thompson 420 feet to right-center.

The Dodgers, looking as if they might not need Mondesi's services again with the way starter Ismael Valdes (8-6) was pitching, were rudely welcomed back to reality in the fourth inning. Valdes had not yielded a hit when Mike Kingery hit a one-out homer to right field. Dante Bichette followed with a home run to left. Larry Walker provided a momentary reprieve with a line drive snared by shortstop Jose Offerman, but Andres Galarraga followed with a 411-foot homer to left.

An inning later, the score was tied, 4-4, when Eric Young hit a bloop single to center, scoring Joe Girardi and sending the crowd into a frenzy.

It was time for Mondesi to take the stage again.

Eric Karros led off the sixth with a single to left, and aggressively took third on a single to left by Roberto Kelly. Tim Wallach hit a sacrifice fly to right for a 5-4 lead, and Todd Hollandsworth singled to center for another run. Mitch Webster flied out to the warning track in center for the second out, but the inning was kept alive when Chad Fonville walked and Offerman reached base on shortstop Weiss' error.

The bases were loaded, there were two outs, and Mondesi was coming to the plate. Baylor brought in right-hander Steve Reed to face Mondesi, but he couldn't bear to watch.

"It was Mondesi's night," Valdes said. "You knew what he was going to do."

Mondesi slapped the 1-1 pitch into right field for two more runs, giving the Dodgers an 8-4 lead that proved to be insurmountable. The Rockies made it interesting when Girardi hit a two-run homer off Pedro Astacio in the seventh, but Antonio Osuna and Worrell pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings to preserve the victory.

"I think those guys get excited when they come here to play," Bichette said. "Especially that one guy."

Said Mondesi: "Hey, it makes no difference who we face here. They can pitch Saberhagen. It doesn't matter. We beat Saberhagen before. We'll beat them again."

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