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Dodgers at a Loss After Their Latest

Baseball: Confidence is replaced by frustration as they fall to Phillies, 3-2.

May 31, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PHILADELPHIA — It was a maddening, infuriating finish Thursday night to a game that merely typified the Dodger season.

The Dodgers, so full of confidence two months ago when they broke spring-training camp, once again were left screaming into the night after their 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies at Veterans Stadium, not quite sure who to blame for this mess.

They'll say that Mickey Morandini was out at the plate when he scored the winning run with one out in the ninth inning and use the TV replays as proof.

They'll say the game never should have been close in the first place, and for proof will offer the statistics. They were hitless in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, and in each situation, failed to even hit the ball out of the infield.

They'll say this was a microcosm of their season at the one-third marker, and for proof look at the standings. They are 28-26, 5 1/2 games behind the San Diego Padres in the National League West.

"I'm not real happy with the way we've played, how can you be?" said Dodger second baseman Delino DeShields, who left the game in the ninth inning because of a strained back. "There's got to be better baseball ahead, that's all I've got can say."

The Dodgers, who statistically have the second-best pitching staff in baseball, once again wasted a great performance by a starter, this time Pedro Astacio. Only this time closer Todd Worrell blew his third save in 18 opportunities.

Worrell, pitching for the fifth time in the last six games, inherited a 2-1 lead in the ninth inning. The lead dissipated when Mark Whiten hit a leadoff homer over the center-field fence.

Pinch-hitter Jim Eisenreich fouled out for the first out. Mickey Morandini then hit a sharp single to left, and stole second. Benito Santiago walked on a full count, bringing up Pete Incaviglia.

The outfield drawn in, Incaviglia swung at the first pitch and hit a grounder between third baseman Jeff Blowers and shortstop Juan Castro. Morandini was barely past third when Todd Hollandsworth picked up the ball in shallow left field, but third base coach Larry Bowa waved him home.

Hollandsworth's throw bounced twice and was slightly up the line but appeared to arrive in plenty of time. Prince slapped the tag, saying later that he hit Morandini's waist, two feet in front of the plate. Morandini said the tag hit his shoulder with his left foot across the plate.

Home-plate umpire Gary Darling called Morandini safe.

Prince stood at the plate in disbelief. He held the ball in the air. He then watched Darling walk off the field, overcome with a feeling of helplessness.

"The call just didn't go our way," Hollandsworth said. "He called him safe. That's it. You can't change it. I saw the replay, what are you going to do?"

The Dodgers say that the game never should have come down to the play. Phillie starter Mike Williams (0-4, 6.02 earned-run average), who had not pitched longer than six innings all season, limited the Dodgers to only two runs in seven innings.

Astacio pitched seven shutout innings before giving up a two-out homer to Mike Lieberthal in the eighth.

But there was the floundering offense. Eric Karros failed to hit the ball out of the infield in his four at-bats, going hitless in 13 at-bats in the series and dropping his average to .219. He also was thrown out at the plate in the first inning while trying to score from first base.

'Believe me, the game wasn't won or lost in the ninth inning," Karros said. "We had our opportunities. I had opportunities to drive some guys in. We just didn't make the most out of it."

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