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Dodgers' DeShields Leads Way

June 11, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Second baseman Delino DeShields arrived three years ago, bringing along great hopes and expectations, but instead it has been a tumultuous, restless time.

He has been a loner with the Dodgers, seeking solitude instead of companionship. He concedes that too often he has permitted his unhappiness to reflect in his play, but that was not evident Monday as DeShields, thrust into the leadoff role perhaps for the season's duration, led the Dodgers to their third consecutive victory, 2-1, over the St. Louis Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd of 54,043 at Dodger Stadium.

It also happened to be the third game in a row that he has been the hero.

"I want to be the man," DeShields said. "I'm not saying we've struggled this year because of me, but I know I can make a big difference."

DeShields, who drove in the game-winner Saturday night and sparked the winning rally Sunday, scored one run and drove in the other Monday. He enabled the Dodgers to move four games above .500 (34-30) for the first time this season, climbing to within 2 1/2 games behind the reeling San Diego Padres.

Certainly, DeShields' value has been proven statistically. The Dodgers are 13-1 in games in which he drives in at least one run, and they are 22-5 overall when the leadoff man scores at least once.

"I think we're going to take off," DeShields said. "This is our time. No one ran away with this thing when they had a chance, and now they're going to have to pay a price."

DeShields, saying he wanted to spark the team from the outset, provided the Dodgers all the offense they needed Monday. He opened the first inning by hitting a single to left, stole second base, stole third base, and scored on Mike Piazza's one-out ground out to second baseman Luis Alicea for a 1-0 lead.

Dodger shortstop Juan Castro--whose father, Efrain Castro, was watching him play in a major league game for the first time--doubled to left field. Starter Chan Ho Park struck out, but Cardinal starter Mike Morgan's wild pitch advanced Castro to third. DeShields then hit a fly ball to right, scoring Castro on a sacrifice fly.

And then the Dodgers held their breath.

The only hit Park (4-2) yielded in five innings in his first start since May 8 was Gary Gaetti's run-scoring single in the fifth. With runners on first and second and still no outs, Park escaped further trouble by inducing a double play from John Mabry and striking out Tom Pagnozzi.

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda gave the ball to left-handed reliever Mark Guthrie in the sixth, and once again he was phenomenal. Guthrie pitched three more scoreless innings, and escaped a sixth-inning jam when, with no outs and David Bell on third base, he struck out Ray Lankford and Gaetti and induced a groundout by Mabry. He now has yielded one run in his last 22 2/3 innings.

"That was amazing right there," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said. "What's the chance of getting out of that?"

In the ninth, with closer Todd Worrell having already pitched three consecutive days, the Dodgers called upon Antonio Osuna. Gaetti greeted Osuna with a single to right, and pinch-runner Miguel Mejia promptly stole second. John Mabry lined out to left field for the first out, Pagnozzi struck out for the fourth time for the second out, but then Park walked Alicea.

Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa, who had not been to Dodger Stadium since losing the 1988 World Series as manager of the Oakland Athletics, called upon Ozzie Smith. Osuna fell behind 2 and 1, but Smith grounded out to DeShields, ending the game. DeShields thrust his right fist into the air.

"I want to have fun again," said DeShields, who raised his batting average to .241. "I don't know if I'll be back. I don't know if I'll even play again after this season. But I want to play ball like I know I can.

"I want to show people what I can do. I'm going to be aggressive. I'm going to take chances. I'm going to do everything that got me here."

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