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Reds Give Dodgers Wake-Up Call, 6-2 : Baseball: L.A. stumbles, fumbles, falls to Cincinnati, which is making playoff plans.


CINCINNATI — Red starter Pete Schourek grabbed a bat Thursday in the clubhouse, dropped into a batting stance and yelled to a group of teammates.

"Look at me," he said. "I'm getting ready for Nomo in Game One of the playoffs. He's going to try to drop that forkball on me, and then, boom, it's gone."

The Reds would like you to believe they're not watching the Dodgers. The Dodgers want you to believe they're only worried about winning the National League West.

Sorry, the secret is out.

These two teams firmly believe they will be getting reacquainted Oct. 3 in the first round of the National League playoffs, which made Cincinnati's 6-2 victory over the Dodgers on Thursday night special.

If the Reds are to play the Dodgers in the playoffs, they wanted to leave something for the Dodgers to ponder for the next six weeks.

"We'll be there, but hey, let's see if they even make it," said Red infielder Mariano Duncan, a former Dodger. "The Rockies are home for awhile now, and people are making a big mistake if they forget about the Padres with that pitching staff.

"The Dodgers better do more than worry about us."

Considering the way the Dodgers played before a paid crowd of 25,005 at Riverfront Stadium, Cincinnati might have to worry about overconfidence.

Schourek, the NL's first 13-game winner at 13-6, pitched a seven-hitter. He mowed through the lineup, limiting the heart of the order--Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Raul Mondesi--to one hit in 11 at-bats. He stopped Piazza's 16-game hitting streak and retired the last 14 batters.

"He made it look easy, didn't he?" said Red Manager Davey Johnson, smiling.

The Reds (63-38) made everything look easy, beating Dodger starter Kevin Tapani, who yielded six hits and five runs (two earned) in four innings.

The Dodgers watched Barry Larkin score from second base on a routine ground ball to shortstop Jose Offerman. They watched Jeff Branson, the Reds' No. 8 hitter, hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning that broke the game open. They watched outfielder Reggie Sanders go four for four. And they saw plenty of Schourek.

The Dodgers were in a 2-2 tie when Sanders led off the fourth inning with a single to center. Thomas Howard hit what appeared to be a routine double-play ball to Offerman, who flipped the ball to second baseman Chad Fonville. But Fonville was slow covering and never made a relay throw. The mistake loomed large when Benito Santiago hit a line drive off Offerman's glove into center field, loading the bases.

"It was like a knuckleball," Offerman said. "When I jumped up, the ball went down."

So did the Dodgers' fortunes. Bret Boone hit a sacrifice fly to center field and Branson followed with a two-run homer, giving the Reds a 5-2 lead and the game.

The Dodgers, whose lead over the Colorado Rockies was cut to one game, still were full of tricks. Larkin scored from second base in the fifth inning when he took off running on Hal Morris' grounder to Offerman. Offerman threw to first, but Eric Karros' relay throw to Piazza was too late. The Dodgers later botched a double-play ball in the seventh when Offerman missed the bag at second.

"It's about as poor a game as we've played fundamentally since the All-Star break," Karros said, "but it's just one game. We have to make sure it stops here. We can't afford to go 1-10 or 2-9 on this trip and think everything will be all right."

Said Red reliever Jeff Brantley: "There was a lot of hype about one game. It was crazy. But, hey, after the '93 season with the Giants, I learned not to count on anything.

"We got our butts caught up in all of the playoff hype, and we didn't get anything. We didn't think anybody would catch us. We win 103 games, and we finish second.

"I still think the Dodgers should win, and I think we'll be playing them. But it's amazing to me they haven't run away with that thing. You can say what you want about their talent, but that race is still up for grabs."

That's what troubles the Dodgers.

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