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MIKE DOWNEY

Delighted Winners Get the Last Smirk

September 19, 1997|MIKE DOWNEY

SAN FRANCISCO — It is late afternoon in the land of the Giants, and darkness is falling on the Dodgers. Their clubhouse is so quiet, you could hear a pennant drop. Todd Zeile's called third strike, Eddie Murray's double-play ball, Mark Guthrie's game-ending gopher ball. . . . there is guilt enough to go around. Everybody contributed 110% to this defeat.

And down the hall, the San Francisco Giants are laughing at them. Laughing.

The bald scalp and diamond earring of Brian Johnson are gleaming in the TV lights, as is Johnson after homering in the 12th inning Thursday to defeat the Dodgers, 6-5--payback to L.A. for all those shots he took as Stanford's quarterback in football games with USC and UCLA.

A grin of contentment appears on the face of Rod Beck, the pudgy, shaggy-haired David Crosby look-alike from the San Fernando Valley who pitched out of a bases-full jam in the 10th inning, turning a crowd's boos to cheers and letting them know that hey, Van Nuys guys don't finish last.

And, acting smugly as ever on his side of the room, Barry Bonds, having thrown daggers at the Dodgers twice in two days, seems doubly pleased because the Colorado Rockies are coming to Los Angeles next. "The good thing is," Bonds says, "that the Rockies have something against the Dodgers too. Vengeance, I don't know what.

"I got a feeling they'll help us out."

The needle is in.

The battle is on.

About all the Dodgers can do is stand there and take it, because they had their chance to make the Giants go away and zip their lips. Neither Chan Ho Park nor Tom Candiotti could pitch them to a victory here. Otis Nixon could homer in the first inning, but couldn't drive home Eric Young in the ninth inning with the winning run. It was that kind of series.

Everybody being even now with records of 84-69, the Dodgers and Giants are "back to where we were on opening day," as a delighted Giant Manager Dusty Baker put it.

"It's a chance to see who plays best and who wants it the most. The last two days, it appears we did," Baker added.

In this, the last Dodger-Giant game of the season--it being virtually impossible that both could make the playoffs--the baseball couldn't have been much better. More than 100,000 fans attended the two games. Not only did they boo L.A., which is every San Franciscan's birthright, but poor Beck felt all of 3Com park coming down on him in the Dodger 10th.

When he somehow escaped without giving up a run after three outfield singles, Beck gave the hecklers an up-the-rebels salute with his right arm, then slapped the roof of the dugout, where he was mobbed by back-slapping teammates.

"Because we didn't think that was right, the fans booing the man in his home park," Bonds said. "He blew one in Atlanta, so what?"

The beleaguered Beck pitched the 10th through 12th innings, chomping his ever-present gum. He thanked the manager, who calls him Shooter, afterward for having faith. Baker had come to the mound in the 10th and been booed himself for leaving Beck in the game, with the bases full and nobody out.

Baker told the pitcher on the mound, "Shooter, dig as deep as you can. Use your bag of tricks."

Two innings later, Beck became the winning pitcher when Johnson whacked the first pitch from Guthrie into a stiff bay breeze and out of the 3Com lot.

Once again, the Dodgers were defeated. Third-base coach Sonny Jackson of the Giants was waiting to escort Johnson around third and on his way to home, much the way Leo Durocher did 46 years ago for Bobby Thomson.

Johnson enjoyed his reception, saying, "Not many times you get to bond that way."

It was a great day for the Stanford man, who grew up in this general vicinity and once at Candlestick Park, in his teens, was the hitting and pitching hero of a scholastic championship game.

This time he was the catcher. Johnson was the one who called the pitch across the outside corner by Beck in the 10th, the one Zeile took with the bat on his shoulder and Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Raul Mondesi on base. He was the one who called for a split-finger pitch when the 41-year-old Murray stood at the plate, expecting something else.

Beck said, "I know Murray's made a living out of first-pitch fastballs. I threw him the splitter."

Nice choice.

Murray tapped into a double play, second to home to first.

"I knew Eddie Murray wasn't going to be fleet of feet," Johnson said. "I knew he just came into the game, and couldn't be very loose. So I felt if we threw home, I'd still have plenty of time to get Murray going down the line to first."

The whole day went that way for the Giants, from a funny curtain call taken by Stan Javier outside the dugout after a three-run homer actually hit by Bonds, to a long fly that Karros hit in the top of the 12th, the one brought down by the wind into Bonds' glove near the warning track. Several Giants said they thought Karros' ball was out of the park.

But it wasn't.

"Aw, too damn bad," Bonds said.

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