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Homer-Field Advantage

Dodgers: Finley hits two home runs, Caminiti adds insurance blast in 4-2 Padre victory. Hamilton and Hoffman shut down L.A. bats.

September 21, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Tony Gwynn actually considered leaving the San Diego Padres. His friends told him to get out of town. His dad pleaded for him to request a trade.

Gwynn listened, but decided to stay put, knowing in his heart how beautiful the moment would be if the Padres could reach the playoffs again.

There still is a week to go, but the Padres showed the Dodgers on Friday night that they refuse to go away, winning, 4-2, in front of a sellout crowd of 51,217 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Steve Finley hit two home runs and Ken Caminiti hit another. Between them, they scored all four runs. They then sat back and watched starter Joey Hamilton and closer Trevor Hoffman shut down the Dodger offense, limiting the Dodgers to three hits.

The Padres (87-68) climbed back to within half a game of the Dodgers (87-67) in the National League West race. Just as important, they moved one game ahead of the Montreal Expos in the wild-card race.

"I'm enjoying this year more than anybody will ever know," Gwynn said. "Nobody knows how excited I feel deep inside my heart. Inside, man, I'm just beaming. I just wanted to be in this situation again. You live for this.

"I mean, I can't tell you how many times people said to me, 'What are you doing there? They're not trying to win. Get out of there.'

"I talked to my mom and dad, asking what I should do. My dad was pretty adamant about it. He jumped on the phone. And to quote my dad, he said, 'You should get the hell out.'

"But I kept thinking, 'It's going to mean so much for me to win in San Diego after all I've gone through.'

"Man, I'm glad I stayed."

Gwynn knew he made the right decision on Dec. 28, 1994. It was the day that the Padres pulled off a 12-player trade with the Houston Astros. It was the day they acquired Caminiti and Finley.

"I think we all realized how much the Padres improved themselves that day," Dodger Manager Bill Russell said. "I think everybody took them seriously after that."

The Padres ignited their crowd in the first inning. Finley, who hit two game-winning homers in the last 10 days, personally terrorized Dodger knuckleballer Tom Candiotti (9-10).

Candiotti opened the game by striking out Gwynn for only the 15th time all season, but before he had a chance to feel good about his feat, Finley slammed his 26th home run over the center-field fence.

It was the only hit Candiotti yielded until he faced Finley again in the fourth inning. This time, Finley took one pitch, and then hit the next one into the right-field seats. It was Finley's third multiple-homer game of the season, and raised his career average against Candiotti to .341 with four homers in 44 at-bats.

"He was pitching great," Finley said. "He just made a couple of mistakes. You look for a ball up off a knuckleball guy, and if he makes a mistake, hopefully you take advantage of it.

"It doesn't always happen that way, but tonight it did."

Caminiti followed Finley's homer with a double to right field. Candiotti got Greg Vaughn, but then made the mistake of not paying attention to Caminiti while pitching to Wally Joyner. Caminiti easily stole third base. Joyner then poked a fly ball to left field, scoring Caminiti with the sacrifice fly for a 3-0 lead.

When Candiotti gave up successive singles to Chris Gomez and Brian Johnson, Russell didn't take any more chances. He yanked Candiotti and brought in Chan Ho Park.

It was the second consecutive game that Candiotti has lasted only 3 2/3 innings, and the eighth time in the last 15 starts that Candiotti has gone five or fewer innings. Candiotti, who has won only five of his last 15 starts, is yielding a 5.40 earned-run average in that span.

The Padres didn't score again until Caminiti's home run in the eighth. Meanwhile, Hamilton yielded three hits in 7 2/3 innings before turning the ball over to Hoffman.

The Dodgers didn't produce their first hit until the fourth. Hamilton issued a leadoff walk to Raul Mondesi. He struck out Tim Wallach, Greg Gagne doubled in Mondesi and took third on Vaughn's throw home.

Delino DeShields, in a three-for-48 slump, struck out for the second out. Russell originally sent Dave Hansen out to pinch-hit, but changed his mind and sent left-handed hitter Oreste Marrero to the plate. Marrero struck out, ending the inning.

Hamilton retired the next seven batters, but with two outs in the seventh, suddenly had control problems. He walked Wallach on four pitches, and then walked Gagne. Russell then sent Hansen to hit for DeShields. Hansen swung at the first pitch and hit it up the middle. Shortstop Chris Gomez dived to his left and smothered the ball. He saved a run, but the bases were loaded, bringing up pinch-hitter Dave Clark.

Clark took a first-pitch strike. He fouled off the next pitch. Hamilton threw the next pitch into the dirt, and Johnson made a nice play to keep the ball in front of him. Now, with the crowd on its feet, Hamilton threw a curve.

Clark swung and missed and the crowd erupted, giving Hamilton a standing ovation.

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