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MIKE DOWNEY

BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : Dodgers Go Three and Out : It Was Fast, Not Painless

October 07, 1995|MIKE DOWNEY

CINCINNATI — Well, that was quick.

Looking pitifully bad, the Dodgers got a broom put to them Friday night by the Cincinnati Reds, a clearly superior baseball club that plays defense better, runs bases better and generally executes better. Outscored in the series, 22-7, for the Dodgers it was one, two, three nights, you're out at the old ball game.

Hideo Nomo wasn't the answer. He had visibly poor stuff, was stolen on with ease, and should have been pinch-hit for in the fourth inning, when Manager Tom Lasorda let him bat with two runners on base and the Dodgers desperate for runs. Nomo struck out, feebly.

Few other Dodger hitters did any better.

"I don't think we got a key hit in this whole series. We probably played our worst offensive baseball of the year," first baseman Eric Karros said, flatly.

"For lack of a better phrase, Cincinnati flat-out kicked our butts."

Tim Wallach (.083), Raul Mondesi (.200) and Mike Piazza (.214) are a few of the batting averages that tell the story. With runners in scoring position, the Dodgers in the playoffs batted .154. The team had two doubles and no triples in the series.

No clutch hitting, no clutch pitching, not even one appearance by Todd Worrell in relief . . . game, set, match.

Center fielder Brett Butler, after possibly his last game as a Dodger, said: "A hit here, a hit there, it could have made the difference . . . maybe. The key word is maybe . In my opinion, we didn't show in any way what this team can do."

Butler was asked about the possibility of this being Lasorda's last game as manager.

"Could be my last one too," Butler said. "You don't know what'll happen next. As far as Tommy is concerned, if that's the case, he's going to leave a legacy for Billy Russell or whoever takes his place. He's a living legend."

Piazza, without whom the Dodgers never would have gotten this far, supported Lasorda thoroughly, saying he did "a tremendous job" and that there was no reason for any change in the manager's office.

Other changes, however, he could see.

"I wouldn't say because of this series," Piazza said, "but changes? Yeah, I'm sure there will be. That's not much of a speculation. We've known for a while that some changes will be in store."

This one was a tough series for Piazza, although the bases Cincinnati stole were more on Nomo than on him, the catcher's throws usually accurate but late. The Reds swiped nine bases in the series, never being caught.

No wonder the manager of the Reds, Davey Johnson, was photographed with his wife, smoking "victory cigars," in the Cincinnati press after Game 2 of this series. This one was over before the fat lady walked her dog.

Marge Schott took her St. Bernard right up to the Dodger dugout before the game, giving a big hug to Lasorda, who petted Schottzie 02 behind the ears. It did not bring Lasorda luck.

The first, and worst, unlucky break of the night came when Chad Fonville tried to score on a Piazza double to left, only to miss home plate. When the littlest Dodger tried to dodge Benito Santiago, the Cincinnati catcher, rather than block the plate Mike Scioscia style, instead stuck out his foot.

"I didn't trip. The catcher tripped me," Fonville said.

"But I don't blame him. The man's just doing his job. I still thought I touched the plate. Obviously, the umpire said I didn't."

Fonville said he was looking for Karros, the on-deck hitter, to signal him whether to slide or come home standing up. But he never saw Karros, so on instinct, he didn't hit the dirt.

It was that kind of night. That kind of series.

Karros and Fonville did the only timely hitting the Dodgers had all week, but in the end, it wasn't worth much.

"They're not weak in any area," Karros said of the Reds, "and, obviously, we are in a few areas. It just shows you, just as quickly as you can make it to the top, you can be right back at the bottom."

Bad finish to a good season?

"Well, I'll say this," Karros said. "This last game doesn't hurt half as much as that second game, the other night. That one will stick in my throat for a long time."

Fred Claire, who has some hard decisions to make and soon, said, "This was a disappointing series for everyone in this clubhouse. We all felt we could do better, position by position.

"But we will be better in 1996, I'll say that. Every phase of this team will be reviewed and evaluated. But we will be back in postseason play in 1996, I can promise you that."

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