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Dodger Bullpen Gets Deep-Sixed in Ninth

Baseball: Rangers commit five errors, then rally from 12-7 deficit against three relievers to win, 13-12.

September 03, 1997|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ARLINGTON, Texas — No matter how hot things get, and the heat is rising daily, Dodger Manager Bill Russell insists he's sticking with Todd Worrell as his closer.

Russell points to Worrell's experience, his proven ability and his 33 saves as proof he has the right man for the job. Don't bother Russell with talk of drastically altering his bullpen during the season's final, frantic days because he just won't hear of it.

Fine, but Russell can't stop what everyone sees.

For the second time in as many outings, and way too often recently, Worrell failed to come through for the Dodgers with the game on the line--allowing the winning runs in the bottom of the ninth inning of the Texas Rangers' 13-12 interleague victory at The Ballpark at Arlington on Tuesday.

The Rangers received a standing ovation from what was left of a crowd of 31,506 when Rusty Greer singled through the hole on the right side against reliever Darren Dreifort--who had relieved Worrell--scoring Alex Diaz from third with the winning run and erasing a five-run deficit.

San Francisco was also the beneficiary of Worrell's problems, as the Dodgers lead over the idle Giants was cut to 1 1/2 games in the NL West. The victory ended the Rangers' three-game losing streak, and left Russell answering more questions about his struggling closer.

"Todd made good pitches," Russell said of Worrell, who is still second in saves in the NL. "Todd was throwing well, the balls just kept falling in. It wasn't like there were a lot of hard-hit balls. There's just nothing you can do about that."

Maybe, but this is a familiar story for Worrell. He was 1-3 in August with a 7.15 earned-run average after giving up nine runs--including seven home runs--in 11 1/3 innings.

Worrell (2-6) was charged with the loss for the second consecutive game, ruining the Dodgers' first trip to Arlington. He gave up two hits, two runs and walked a batter in the decisive ninth.

"It was our whole bullpen--not just one person," Russell said. "This is very unusual to happen to us. We haven't had a breakdown like this in our bullpen in a long time."

"I don't have anything to say," Worrell said to reporters, as he hurried to dress and leave the visitors' clubhouse at the stadium.

Who could blame him?

In fairness to Worrell, he shouldn't have had to pitch Tuesday. The Dodgers staked starter Hideo Nomo to leads of 6-2 after three innings and 9-3 after five. With recently acquired Eric Young (two hits, one run) and Otis Nixon (three hits, three runs) continuing to get on base and pressure the defense with their speed, things couldn't have looked brighter for the Dodgers early.

And Mike Piazza, getting a rest from catching duties thanks to the American League's designated hitter rule, continued his torrid hitting and drove in two runs. Piazza, the NL player of the week for last week, had three hits, including his first triple of the season and third of his career, to raise his average to .355.

The Rangers seemed to want to help the Dodgers as much as they could, committing a season-high five errors and generally looking out of sync fundamentally. But Nomo, who had won his previous two decisions, didn't look sharp.

Nomo gave up eight hits and five earned runs in 5 1/3 innings. That started the parade of relievers.

Antonio Osuna finished the sixth without incident. However, Mark Guthrie was hit hard in the seventh, giving up three hits and two runs as the Rangers cut the lead to 10-7.

But the Dodgers scored two runs that seemed like insurance in the top of the eighth on an RBI single by Todd Zeile and an error by Greer to take a 12-7 lead into the ninth.

Overall, the Dodgers' bullpen has been one of the league's best. Beginning the game, the Dodgers were 67-4 when leading after eight innings, but that didn't help them against the Rangers.

Scott Radinsky opened the inning and didn't retire a batter, giving up four runs on three hits and a walk.

Enter Worrell. Then Dreifort. Then a loss.

"It looked like we had the game in the bag," shortstop Greg Gagne said. "But it's really not over until it's over, and tonight was a good example of that."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Losing It

A look at how Dodger relievers blew a 12-7 lead in the ninth inning:

SCOTT RADINSKY

* Batters faced: 4

* Outs: 0

* Walks: 1

* Hits: 3

* Runs: 4

TODD WORRELL

* Batters faced: 4

* Outs: 1

* Walks: 1

* Hits: 2

* Runs: 2

DARREN DREIFORT

* Batters faced: 2

* Outs: 1

* Walks: 0

* Hits: 1

* Runs: 0

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