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Dodgers Leave a Mark

Baseball: Four-run rally in ninth gives L.A. a 7-6 victory to overshadow McGwire's mammoth homer.

September 17, 1997|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ST. LOUIS — It was an electrifying moment at Busch Stadium.

Mark McGwire signed a contract with the St. Louis Cardinals early Tuesday that could pay him $39.5 million over four years, then came up Tuesday night in the first inning against the Dodgers to a standing ovation and promptly smacked a 517-foot home run off the left-field scoreboard.

Dodger first baseman Eric Karros, caught up in the moment, said he felt like high-fiving McGwire as the Cardinal first baseman came by with the crowd cheering and fireworks exploding.

Three hours later, it was Karros rounding first on a double, a key figure in a four-run, ninth-inning rally that enabled the Dodgers to beat St. Louis, 7-6.

There were no cheers from the crowd, no fireworks, no high-five from McGwire.

No matter.

The Dodgers could high-five themselves all the way back to California, where more fireworks are expected tonight when the Dodgers face the San Francisco Giants in the first of a two-game showdown at 3Com Park.

The Dodgers fly into San Francisco sky-high with confidence after sweeping in St. Louis to win their third in a row, each victory coupled with a San Francisco loss to move the Dodgers into a two-game lead in the National League West with 11 games to go.

In Tuesday's victory before 27,157, the Dodgers got some pitching help from a new face and got an old face in a new place.

After using nine pitchers Monday, and eager to give closer Todd Worrell a night off after he blew another save in Monday's game, Manager Bill Russell used Rick Gorecki, called up from double-A San Antonio, in the seventh and eighth innings, and Scott Radinsky as his closer in the ninth.

The result: Gorecki got his first major league victory and Radinsky struck out the side to earn his third save of the season.

But Karros, for one, isn't about to start celebrating.

"Not to minimize what we have done," he said, "but we had a big lead with eight games to go in 1991 and a lead last season and we didn't win. Until we clinch, this thing is wide open."

Still, there was no denying that the mood of this club has changed dramatically since the weekend when the Dodgers were suffering through a five-game losing streak.

They snapped that with a 10-inning victory Sunday in Houston, beat the Cardinals in 15 innings Monday and came back to win after falling behind Tuesday.

It was the Dodgers who had the early lead on Mike Piazza's two-run shot to left-center in the first inning. The home run was Piazza's 36th, tying his L.A. Dodger record of last season. The two RBIs give him 111, one short of his career high, set in his rookie year of 1993.

Then came McGwire's shot off Dodger starter Ramon Martinez, McGwire's 18th home run as a Cardinal and his 52nd of the season, including 34 he hit for the Oakland Athletics.

It was also the fifth home run McGwire has hit this season that carried over 500 feet.

"That was the longest home run I have ever given up," Martinez said.

"My ears are still ringing," Piazza said. "That was impressive. I hit my ball as far as I could hit it, but it looked like a chip shot compared to his. But what can you do? I'm not complaining."

Not hardly.

After an RBI single by Eric Young in the fifth inning had given the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, St. Louis came back with a run in the sixth on an RBI single by catcher Eli Marrero off Darren Hall, and a three-run homer by Ray Lankford, his 30th home run of the year, and an RBI double by Willie McGee in the seventh, all off Mark Guthrie.

That set the scene for the ninth.

With St. Louis closer Dennis Eckersley on the mound, Piazza singled, Karros doubled, Raul Mondesi singled in a run, Todd Zeile singled in a run and pinch-hitter Eddie Murray walked to load the bases with the Dodgers still trailing, 6-5.

John Frascatore came on and got Wayne Kirby to pop up, then Todd Hollandsworth hit a ground ball to shortstop Royce Clayton. Clayton tried to short-hop it, only to have the ball fly up out of his grasp, the tying run coming home on the error.

"We got lucky," Karros admitted. "That was a possible double-play ball. That's what we need, some breaks."

Young followed with a sacrifice fly to center and the Dodgers had the lead.

And this time, with Radinsky striking out Lankford, Ron Gant and McGee, the Dodgers kept the lead.

When it was over, the Dodgers were still marveling at McGwire's magic moment.

"When I got to first, I told him it was awesome," Karros said. "I'm saying that as a fan. How often do you see something like that? It was right out of the movies."

For the Dodgers, this movie had a happy ending.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

THE WEST / Stretch Drive

STANDINGS

*--*

TEAM W L GB DODGERS 84 67 -- GIANTS 82 69 2

*--*

TUESDAY

Dodgers: 7

St. Louis: 6

Atlanta: 6

Giants: 4

The Showdown

TONIGHT'S GAME

DODGERS at GIANTS

Time: 7:30 p.m.

TV Fox Sports West 2

Radio: KABC (790)

Dodgers' Chan Ho Park (13-7, 3.48) vs. Giants' Kirk Rueter (12-6, 3.50)

GAMES REMAINING

DODGERS: 11

Home (5)

* Sept. 19-21 vs. Colorado

* Sept. 23-24 vs. San Diego

Away (6)

* Sept. 17-18 vs. Giants

* Sept. 25-28 vs. Colorado

*

SAN FRANCISCO: 11

Home (5)

* Sept. 17-18 vs. Dodgers

* Sept. 26-28 vs. San Diego

Away (6)

* Sept. 19-22 vs. San Diego

* Sept. 23-24 vs. Colorado

*

DAYS IN FIRST:

* Giants: 125

* Dodgers: 27

* Rockies: 23

* Padres: 7

* Biggest Dodger Deficit: 8 games on July 1

* Biggest Giant Deficit: 2 1/2 games on Sept. 1

*

HEAD TO HEAD

Dodgers vs. Giants

June 4: Dodgers, 5-1

June 5: Giants, 5-4

June 19: Giants, 5-2

June 20: Dodgers, 11-7

June 21: Dodgers, 11-0

June 22: Giants, 4-2

July 10: Dodgers, 11-0

July 11: Dodgers, 6-2

July 12: Giants, 8-5

July 13: Dodgers, 9-3

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