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One Pitch Is the Difference in Dodger Loss

Baseball: Candiotti yields first-inning grand slam to White and Montreal goes on to score a 7-3 victory.

August 19, 1996|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

One more good pitch.

That's all Tom Candiotti figured he'd need to survive.

The Dodger right-hander had loaded the bases with Expos in the first inning Sunday afternoon at Dodger Stadium with nobody out in a game Montreal would eventually win, 7-3.

But at the time Candiotti was not alarmed. He knew that he sometimes tends to struggle at the start of games, that he had the advantage of pitching for a hot club that had won seven of its previous eight games, that things might be different in the second inning if only he could get there.

Candiotti retired the next two Expos and got a 2-2 count on centerfielder Rondell White.

One more good pitch.

But Candiotti never got it.

Instead, White hit a curveball into the bleachers in left-centerfield for a grand slam and the Expos were never caught, smashing their way to a 7-0 lead en route to the victory.

It was White's second career grand slam. The other came last year, also against the Dodgers.

The loss, coupled with a San Diego win, left the Dodgers in first place in the NL West by only a percentage point over the Padres.

"I am kind of vulnerable early sometimes," Candiotti said. "Sometimes it takes time to develop the knuckler. But it came down to one pitch and that's hard to take."

Harder still because Candiotti didn't throw the knuckler, his best pitch, in that crucial situation.

It's been a painful year for both men. Candiotti was making his second start since missing nearly a month because of a bruised elbow, suffered when he was hit by a pitch. White missed 68 games because of a bruised kidney and spleen.

But after their respective roads to recovery intersected Sunday, it was White who was feeling no pain.

"I was trying to be patient," he said, "and trying to make him throw a strike.

"It's been tough. Anytime you are out two and one-half months with an injury, you just try and go out and get a hit."

White had three hits Sunday, boosting his average to .310, but he still wasn't satisfied.

"I don't feel good at the plate at all," he insisted. "I'm getting hits, but they are not the type of hits I want. I'll take anything now."

Even after White's slam, the first allowed by the Dodgers this season, there was optimism in the Dodger dugout.

And understandably so.

In surging back into first place in their division, the Dodgers have used a balanced attack that has produced crucial hits game after game. And they had won seven in a row from the Expos.

But there was to be no comeback Sunday.

While Montreal righthander Mark Leiter (7-10) was holding the Dodgers in check, his teammates came up with three more runs in the fourth.

Consecutive singles by Darrin Fletcher and White were followed by RBI singles from F.P. Santangelo and Dave Silvestri.

That was it for Candiotti, whose record fell to 7-9.

The Expos got their final run off reliever Chan Ho Park, who gave up a sacrifice fly to Mark Grudzielanek.

By the time the Dodgers began to rattle their bats, Manager Bill Russell had removed his best hitter, Mike Piazza, who had hit a game-winning homer against the Expos Saturday night.

Russell wasn't about to second-guess himself, even after the Dodgers rallied in the seventh.

"We were down 7-0," he said. "Piazza's knee was bothering him and [Monday] is a day off. That was my thought process and I would never look back."

Actually, the Dodgers only got on the scoreboard when Russell pulled his starters and went to his reserves.

But it might have been different if only Candiotti had thrown one more good pitch.

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