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Rocky Outing All Around

Giants: Baker's stomach ailment not helped when his team gets routed, 12-2, but L.A. loss provides relief.


SAN DIEGO — If a gastrointestinal ailment hadn't already sent Dusty Baker to the hospital Saturday morning, watching his pitching staff get raked for 12 hits and nine walks a few hours later might have been enough to make him ill.

The San Francisco Giants' manager emerged from his ordeal shaky but none the worse for wear, and--although they knew they didn't deserve it--so did the Giants. Despite a 12-2 loss to the San Diego Padres before a lively crowd of 30,812 at Qualcomm Stadium, the Giants maintained their one-game lead over the Dodgers atop the NL West by grace of the Dodgers' 2-1 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

The roars that burst out of the Giants' clubhouse after Eddie Murray grounded into a game-ending double play at Dodger Stadium stemmed from sheer relief at getting a reprieve they had no right to expect.

"Yeah, we feel lucky," Giant center fielder Darryl Hamilton said. "This is one of the happier clubhouses I've ever been in after getting beat like that."

Said infielder Jeff Kent: "I came out of the trainer's room and reminded everybody, 'Hey, we still lost by 10.' "

From the first inning, when Giant starter Shawn Estes (18-5) missed the plate on his first 11 pitches, it was apparent this would be a game the Giants would want to quickly forget. Baker was released from Scripps Hospital in time to pull Estes from the game with two out, a run in and two runners on base in the second inning; he stayed a few innings but returned to the hospital before the game ended to undergo a series of tests. He's expected to be in uniform today for the third game of this four-game series.

"The scoreboard told him he wasn't up to it," said pitching coach Ron Perranoski, who stepped into the managerial breach. "He was feeling better but he was weak. He probably didn't sleep all night. Coming to the ballpark, he didn't feel good."

Estes, whose outing was his briefest since a 1 2/3-inning appearance May 18 at Chicago, wasn't feeling all that great, either. Unable to get his curveball over for strikes, he had to spot his fastball, which didn't exceed 90 mph. Walks to Craig Shipley and Steve Finley, Tony Gwynn's fielder's choice grounder and third baseman Bill Mueller's misplay of Ken Caminiti's grounder produced the first Padre run. Then Greg Vaughn's 436-foot, three-run home run to left set the rout in motion.

The loss was the first for Estes, the Giants' ace, since July 18. However, he hasn't won in four starts since defeating the Angels Aug. 30, getting no decision in the three games that preceded his stumble Saturday. He found it difficult to join the exultation that resounded in the clubhouse after he watched the end of the Dodger game.

"It eases the pain a little bit about my performance," he said. "It was a little pick-me-up, but on the other hand, if we win today, we're two up."

There was little chance they'd win, not with Pete Smith (7-5) offsetting his curveball and changeup with a well-controlled fastball. And certainly not after the Padres added two runs in the second, two in the fourth and four in the fifth, an inning highlighted by Vaughn's fourth and fifth RBIs and Gwynn's third hit. The only race that showed any movement Saturday was the chase for the NL batting title: Gwynn's three-for-four effort raised his batting average to .3699 and lifted him past Colorado's Larry Walker, who is batting .3695.

"I hope he gets it," Hamilton said, clutching an autographed poster of Gwynn under his arm. "But I hope he loses the game when he plays us."

Hamilton could afford to be generous, knowing that with seven games left, the Giants held onto first place for another day--they've owned at least a share of the lead for 129 of 172 days this season--despite being only 34-34 since the All-Star break.

"We looked like we were mentally tired a little bit. We played three tough games before this," right fielder Stan Javier said. "We got lucky that we didn't lose any ground."

Reliever Rod Beck got the day off he needed--but not for the reasons he would have preferred. "You don't want to play the way we played today and expect [the Dodgers] to lose," he said. "We didn't lose any ground, but we didn't gain any, either. You could look at it either way, that we wasted an opportunity or we didn't lose any."



WHO: San Diego Padres

WHERE: Dodger Stadium

WHEN: Tuesday, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, 5 p.m.

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