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Game Report : Padres 2, Dodgers 0

Claire Urged the Dodgers to Play for Pride in Finale

September 30, 1996|BOB NIGHTENGALE

Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, knew what everyone was thinking Sunday in the season finale.

He read the comments from some of his players ridiculing the importance of the division championship.

He read the newspapers and listened to the broadcast reports mocking the game.

Yet, whether it was an advantage or disadvantage winning the National League West championship, there is a thing called pride, Claire insisted. And he wasn't about to permit his club to treat the finale as if it were a spring-training game.

Claire and Manager Bill Russell talked with the team before the game and stressed the importance of winning it.

"When you play a game, you better play that game as hard as you can to win," Claire said. "It meant a lot to this organization to win the West Division championship."

The Dodgers may have pulled starter Ramon Martinez after only one inning, but they started all of their regulars, and kept All-Star catcher Mike Piazza in the game through nine innings. And while the Padres started Bob Tewksbury instead of ace Joey Hamilton, they kept their regulars in the entire game.

"I think it told you something about the character of the teams," Russell said. "We wanted to win. They wanted to win. We each respected the game of baseball."

The wild-card concept still is great for baseball, Claire said, although he understands the confusion on those trying to figure out whether it was best to play the Atlanta Braves at home in the first two games of the best-of-five division playoffs or open the postseason on the road against the St. Louis Cardinals.

"Maybe there's something to be said about a seven-game series," Claire said. "'You fight for 162 games, and no question a lot can happen in a short series. I'd like to see that."

*

The Dodgers and Padres, who battled one another all season in the National League West, say they wouldn't be surprised if they saw one another again in a week--playing for the National League pennant.

"We battled these guys for seven games the last 1 1/2 weeks," Dodger center fielder Wayne Kirby said. "I'm tired of seeing them. . . .

"But we could be seeing them again real soon. I'd like to see them again. If we do, believe me, it won't be the same outcome. They can have the first laugh, we'll have the last laugh."

*

Dodger shortstop Greg Gagne on losing the NL West title: "It definitely hurt to lose that game, but as I told these guys, 'Hey, we don't get a West Division ring anyway. So why worry about it? We're still in the playoffs."

*

If nothing else, the division race may finally have fueled an honest-to-goodness rivalry between the Dodgers and Padres.

"We really haven't been a lot of competition to the Dodgers," Padre Manager Bruce Bochy said. "Now, I think we got something."

*

The Dodgers immediately flashed a message on the scoreboard after the game congratulating the Padres on winning the NL West title. Claire and Russell also immediately went into the Padre clubhouse to offer congratulations . . . . Dodger first baseman Eric Karros set a Los Angeles club record when he grounded into two double plays, giving him a league-high 27 for the season. The key double play was when he grounded out with one out and runners on first and second in the ninth. "This series wasn't decided on one pitch, one hit or one play," Karros said. "Give San Diego credit. They just outplayed us."

The three-game series at Dodger Stadium drew 159,541--the second-largest series in Dodger Stadium history. The only three-game series that attracted more fans took place Sept. 5-7, 1966 when the San Francisco Giants were in town . . . . The Dodgers drew 3,188,454 for the season--their seventh-largest total in franchise history.

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