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Beginning of the End?

Dodgers: A 5-1 lead turns into a 10-5 loss as the Rockies compound Los Angeles' misery.

September 22, 1997|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A season of promise for the Dodgers has turned sour. A season of exhilaration has become depressing. The team that stood on top of the mountain in the National League West only five days ago is now clinging to the edge of the cliff by its fingertips.

And considering the number of damaging errors committed by the Dodgers of late, those fingertips aren't too reliable.

After collapsing against the Colorado Rockies on Sunday night, 10-5, in front of a Dodger Stadium sellout crowd of 53,903, the Dodgers trail the San Francisco Giants by two games with six to play.

"The Giants are not going to win six in a row," Dodger Manager Bill Russell said.

And the Dodgers are?

Not with what they been showing on the field of late. Not with the kind of performances that have caused them to lose five in a row and 10 of 13. Not with the kind of pitching that has caused them to give up 74 runs in those 13 games.

After watching the Giants come back--something the Dodgers seem to have forgotten how to do--against the San Diego Padres on Sunday afternoon to win, 8-5, the Dodgers filed out of their television room in a dark mood.

Nobody else was going to help them.

Three hours later, they filed out of their dugout in an even darker mood.

As it turns out, they weren't even going to help themselves.

"There's no reason to panic," Dodger third baseman Todd Zeile said. "We have to win all six games. Anybody who doesn't think we have to win all six is crazy.

"We have to stop looking for other people to help us. We have to take control ourselves."

That was the theme of a meeting Russell called before the game. The Dodgers heard all the right things. They said all the right things.

And then they went out and got the biggest emotional lift possible.

They got a break in the second inning when Raul Mondesi was given a single on a bouncer to short even though the television replay clearly showed the throw to first had beaten him by a step. Zeile followed with a single and went to second on the throw in from the outfield. Darren Lewis then followed with a two-run double.

Nothing like a 2-0 lead to get the spirits soaring.

Then, in the third, after Walt Weiss had doubled in a run in the top of the inning to get the Rockies on the scoreboard, Mike Piazza, with Otis Nixon aboard, sent a ball soaring out of Dodger Stadium, his 37th home run bouncing on the roof of the left-field pavilion before it went into the parking lot. The historic blast, the first ball hit out of Dodger Stadium via left field, was measured at 478 feet. Talk about uplifting.

Mondesi added his 28th homer in the inning and the Dodgers were out in front, 5-1.

Take that, San Francisco.

But, in the later innings, as it has so many times this year, it all came apart for the Dodgers.

Andres Galarraga started the comeback with his 40th home run in the fourth inning.

But that was just the first boulder preceding the avalanche that would follow in the sixth inning.

It began with a single by Weiss off Ramon Martinez (9-5). Then Ellis Burks doubled, Weiss scoring when Mondesi fumbled the ball in right field. When Martinez issued back-to-back walks to load the bases, he was through.

Yet another Dodger starter had been unable to finish.

Darren Dreifort came in and gave up an RBI single to Dante Bichette to tie the score.

He then appeared to get Vinny Castilla on a fly ball to right-center. But the usually reliable Nixon, peering up into the twilight sky, saw nothing.

The ball dropped untouched and bounced into the seats as two Colorado runners raced home.

"I wouldn't call it embarrassing," Nixon said. "I just let it get away. As soon as it got up in the air, I lost it. That's not a good feeling. That was my first twilight game here."

Pressed by a reporter to describe how difficult it is to see out there at that time of day, Nixon replied, "I can give you a glove and you can try."

Before the inning was over, the Rockies had scored five times. They added three more in the seventh, including Burks' 31st home run, to assure themselves of a series sweep and move only three games behind the fast-falling Dodgers.

Today is an off day for the Dodgers. No jokes, please, about the last five being off days as well.

"We should have dinner, go to a movie, enjoy the family, get away from baseball," Nixon said.

But, second baseman Eric Young said he will return fired up.

"I'm going to come back and give it all I've got," he said, "and hope that everybody else will do the same. Then, when the season is over, I can look myself in the mirror."

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

THE WEST / Stretch Drive

STANDINGS

*--*

TEAM W L GB GIANTS 86 70 -- DODGERS 84 72 2

*--*

MAGIC NUMBER

GIANTS: 5

THE FINAL 9

Dodgers vs. Rockies, L, 6-4, SEPT. 19

Dodgers vs. Rockies, L, 2-1, SEPT. 20

Dodgers vs. Rockies, L, 10-5, SEPT. 21

OFF, SEPT. 22 Dodgers vs. Padres, SEPT. 23

Dodgers vs. Padres, SEPT. 24

Dodgers at Rockies, SEPT. 25

Dodgers at Rockies, SEPT. 26

Dodgers at Rockies, SEPT. 27

Dodgers at Rockies, SEPT. 28

THE FINAL 9

Giants at Padres, W, 7-4, SEPT. 19

Giants at Padres, L, 12-2, SEPT. 20

Giants at Padres, W, 8-5, SEPT. 21

Giants at Padres, SEPT. 22

Giants at Rockies, SEPT. 23

Giants at Rockies, SEPT. 24

OFF, SEPT. 25

Giants vs. Padres, SEPT. 26

Giants vs. Padres, SEPT. 27

Giants vs. Padres, SEPT. 28

Giants vs. Padres, SEPT. 29

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