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Blowers Out, Busch Comes On Strong

Dodgers: With third base a question mark, grand slam is key to victory over Giants.

July 19, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN FRANCISCO — The Dodgers could have loudly celebrated their 8-3 comeback victory Thursday night over the San Francisco Giants at Candlestick Park, and it would have been perfectly understandable.

They could have boasted about scoring as many runs in one inning--six--as they have in the last five games combined, and it would have been reasonable.

They could have talked about the exploits of third baseman Mike Busch, who hit his first career grand slam in the Dodgers' six-run seventh and it would have been expected.

Yet they refused to permit one night to cloud their vision, not after learning that starting third baseman Mike Blowers will sit out the remainder of the season because of a torn left anterior cruciate ligament and torn knee cartilage.

Unless a trade is made to find another third baseman, leadoff hitter or power hitter, the Dodgers openly wonder if they can still win the National League West.

While Fred Claire, executive vice president, says there is no urgency to make a trade--and may even permit the July 31 deadline pass without making one--the Dodgers say it's imperative that a move be made.

"How many more guys can this team lose before we replace people?" Dodger closer Todd Worrell said, speaking for several players. "I hope they try to do something just to give this team a booster shot."

This is a team now that has been devastated by injuries, the latest occurring Thursday when they were notified about the severity of Blowers' knee injury.

Suddenly, they are left without an established third baseman.

They still can't find an everyday center fielder.

The leadoff spot has been a quagmire of ineptness since losing Brett Butler.

And, worst of all, their confidence is eroding.

"We need to get somebody," second baseman Delino DeShields said. "You lose an everyday player, it's tough on everybody."

Claire stood in front of reporters Thursday and said he is not actively pursing a third baseman. He wants to give Busch a chance, and although he made two errors, Busch went two for four with a double and game-breaking grand slam. He may have earned a spot in the starting lineup today against right-hander William VanLandingham instead of Dave Hansen.

"He gave us a lift we needed tonight," interim Manager Bill Russell said. "It's a good chance he'll be in there tomorrow."

Said Busch: "The most important thing is I'm healthy again. I know I can help this team. I just want the opportunity."

Busch's play may ward off any urgency to acquire a third baseman, but those close to Claire insist that a move will be made. Like any shrewd poker player, Claire is not about to show his hand before it becomes necessary.

The easy move to make is waiting for Tim Wallach to possibly be released by the Angels. Wallach, who was not re-signed at the end of last season, was popular and is a strong clubhouse influence. Yet, the Dodgers don't know if he's capable of playing every day.

They are expected to make calls the next few days. They'll check out Charlie Hayes of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Terry Pendleton of the Florida Marlins, Todd Zeile of the Philadelphia Phillies, Jeff Kent of the New York Mets and Bobby Bonilla of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Dodgers inquired this week about power-hitting left fielder Greg Vaughn of the Milwaukee Brewers, who's in the final year of his contract that pays him $5.7 million this season. They also have privately talked about center fielder Brian McRae of the Chicago Cubs, who could help solve their leadoff woes.

"We're going to take a look at Mike [Busch]," Claire said. "He's deserving of a chance to play. I don't think it's fair to look without giving Mike a chance. Let's play it out and see what happens.

"We also have limits where our payroll should be. This isn't a play world. This isn't a Shaq O'Neal world. This is a real world."

The Dodgers won for only the second time in the last six games, moving into a tie for first place with the San Diego Padres. Hideo Nomo (10-8) cruised for eight innings, yielding four hits and three earned runs, and watched in delight during the Dodgers' six-run, seventh inning.

The Dodgers, trailing 3-2 after Matt Williams' two-run homer in the sixth off Nomo, came right back in the seventh. After RBI singles by Mike Piazza and Raul Mondesi, Busch drove a 1-and-0 pitch from Mark Dewey into the center-field seats, handing the Giants their 21st loss in 25 games.

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