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It Swings Other Way for Dodgers

Baseball: They are demoralized again when Sosa turns 1-0 deficit into 2-1 Cub victory with homer in eighth.

May 14, 1997|BOB NIGHTENGALE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CHICAGO — The psychiatrists are making sure their couches stay empty. They are keeping their appointment books vacant. They want to be absolutely sure they are ready for business.

The way the head doctors figure it, the Dodgers' entire pitching staff soon will be scurrying for their offices.

The Dodgers, having their fate change on one pitch for the second consecutive game, were left muttering to themselves Tuesday night, losing 2-1, to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field.

Dodger starter Pedro Astacio pitched brilliantly until the eighth. He walked Mark Grace on five pitches with two out in the eighth. Sammy Sosa then punished him, hitting a 2-and-0 fastball over the center-field fence for a game-winning, two-run homer.

"That's the only mistake he made all night," Sosa said, "but I was ready for him."

The Curse of Wrigley Field had struck again, leaving Astacio (3-1) winless in his career at Wrigley.

"That's the way it's been all year," Dodger Manager Bill Russell said, speaking almost in a whisper. "The opportunities were there. Pedro pitched great. You couldn't ask for anything more.

"But when you only score one run, and when you don't capitalize on opportunities, that's going to happen."

Russell's voice trailed off. He was still trying to make sense of this zany season in which the Dodgers could be running away with the division if only they could score runs.

But the team that vowed its offensive woes would be left behind this year, instead is last in the major leagues with 127 runs.

"We have a lot of run-producers in the lineup," said Dodger third baseman Todd Zeile, who provided their lone run with a seventh-inning homer that landed on Waveland Avenue beyond the left-field bleachers. "That's our job, just to drive in runs. But we haven't done it."

If it wasn't frustrating enough for the Dodgers to watch Sosa's homer resurrect memories of Sunday when Doug Strange hit a two-out, two-strike homer in the ninth inning off Todd Worrell in the Montreal Expos' 6-3, 10-inning victory, the agony became excruciating in the ninth.

Cub Manager Jim Riggleman did the Dodgers a favor when he brought in beleaguered closer Mel Rojas to close out the game. And once again, Rojas did his impersonation of Mitch Williams.

Raul Mondesi opened the ninth by grounding out, but then it all unraveled. Zeile walked on five pitches for the Dodgers' first walk of the game. Wilton Guerrero pinch-ran for Zeile, and stopped at second when Wayne Kirby singled to center.

Russell summoned left-handed pinch-hitter Eric Anthony, who was hitless in eight career at-bats against Rojas. Make that nine. Anthony flied to left field for the second out. But Nelson Liriano kept the inning alive and had the crowd of 21,708 groaning in agony when he walked, loading the bases for Todd Hollandsworth.

Hollandsworth took the first pitch for a ball, then swung and missed at a high fastball that would have been ball 2. Rojas came back with back-to-back split-finger fastballs, and Hollandsworth swung and missed at each time, ending the game.

"It's a tough way to lose when you lose games like that," Zeile said. "It's tough to see anyone lose when you pitch like that."

The Dodgers, who reached base 11 times on hits, walks and errors, never gave Astacio any breathing room. And, certainly, no one blamed himself any more than Hollandsworth.

Hollandsworth, with runners at second and third with one out in the fifth inning, needed to only hit the ball past pitcher Terry Mulholland for a run with the Cub infield playing back. Instead, he hit a bouncer back to the mound. In the seventh inning, he stranded Juan Castro on second base with two out when he popped up to first base. And then, there was the ninth.

"I was just a little too aggressive today," Hollandsworth said. "I wasn't selective enough, obviously."

The Dodgers, now two games behind the San Francisco Giants, believe they one day will overcome their offensive plight. Who knows, maybe they'll start scoring runs before their entire pitching staff seeks counseling.

* DETAILS, DETAILS

Dodgers, Murdoch going through proper channels. C7

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