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Park Puts Dodgers in Drive

Baseball: Persistent Rockies hold off Giants in the ninth, 7-6, and avoid elimination in NL West.

September 24, 1997|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DENVER — Maybe it's too late for the Colorado Rockies, and maybe their rush to the finish line is just wasted energy by a team fooling itself. But it's their time, and they're going to spend it as they please.

Colorado's pastime of choice these days is knocking down the San Francisco Giants and Dodgers as often as possible--and they're getting quite good at it. Just ask the National League West's top two teams, who can't seem to slow the charging Rockies.

The Rockies did it again Tuesday night, holding on for a 7-6 victory over the NL West-leading Giants before 48,026 at Coors Field. The Rockies' fourth consecutive victory--combined with the Dodgers' victory over San Diego--cut the Giants' lead to 1 1/2 games over the Dodgers and 4 1/2 over the third-place Rockies.

Everything wasn't as smooth as Manager Don Baylor would have liked, but the result kept him smiling and--more important--staved off elimination. The Rockies must win their final five games and hope the Giants lose their final four to force a playoff.

"It's desperation time, and these guys are responding to it," Baylor said of his team, which has won nine of 12 and 20 of 25. "Our offense has been keeping us in games with a lot of key hits. This continues to give us confidence when you do it over and over and guys continue to come through."

The Rockies went ahead, 5-3, on a three-run homer by Andres Galarraga in the fifth inning, his 41st, and added two runs in the eighth on a singles by Ellis Burks and Larry Walker.

San Francisco scored three runs in the top of the ninth against Colorado closer Jerry Dipoto, including a two-run home run by Barry Bonds, his 39th. However, Curtis Leskanic got pinch-hitter Damon Berryhill to ground out to end the game. Leskanic earned his second save and Darren Holmes (9-2) earned the victory with two scoreless innings in relief.

"It's a lot of fun to be a baseball player on this team right now," Leskanic said. "We're not talking about the race at all, we're just going out and playing hard. We know we can still do this."

A run-scoring single by Darryl Hamilton in the second inning put the Giants on the scoreboard first. Jose Vizcaino followed with a run-scoring single in the third and Jeff Kent gave San Francisco a 3-1 lead in the fourth when Hamilton scored on his double to right field.

Although they're in the lead, the Giants have a few problems. Veteran starter Danny Darwin (1-3) wasn't effective, giving up five runs and 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings.

And when you're starting a 41-year-old pitcher in Coors Field in September with a division race still undecided, things could be much better.

Darwin's shaky performance aside, the Giants' starting pitching, not to be mistaken for the glamour unit of this team, had been giving Baker many reasons for concern before Tuesday night. Ace left-hander Shawn Estes will miss a turn today because of a sore left shoulder.

Estes struggled in his previous start Saturday at San Diego, lasting only 1 2/3 innings in a 12-2 loss to the Padres. After such a short stint, Estes said he had hoped to pitch today, but Baker and pitching coach Dick Pole rejected that idea after watching Estes throw before Tuesday's game.

"He's close, but he's not all the way back," Baker said of Estes, who is 18-5 with a 3.25 earned-run average.

"You can't take a chance of hurting such a commodity. You've got to have him for the playoffs and World Series. I realize you've got to get there first, but you kind of have to hedge your bet."

Baker isn't certain when starter Mark Gardner (12-9, 4.29 ERA) will return to the team. The Giants said Gardner is with his wife, who has health problems.

Such adversity wouldn't make the pitching-rich Atlanta Braves blink, but Baker doesn't manage in that world. He has to make do with the parts available, finding them where he can.

So into the void today goes right-hander Pat Rapp, who hasn't gone into too many games lately.

Acquired from the Florida Marlins on July 18 to provide the staff with another seemingly reliable starter, Rapp has been racked. He was optioned to triple-A Phoenix on Aug. 16 after going 1-2 with a 7.90 ERA (12 runs in 13 2/3 innings) in three starts.

The Giants recalled Rapp on Sept. 1, but Baker hasn't exactly rushed him back into battle. Rapp has made two relief appearances, pitching 6 2/3 innings. Overall, Rapp is 5-8 with a 4.90 ERA.

Still, Rapp said he is the right man for the job--even if his numbers indicate otherwise.

"I've pitched pretty well against them," said Rapp, who is 5-3 with a 4.56 ERA in his career against the Rockies. "You want to contribute right now, and I'm ready for the chance. I know everyone will be watching."

Maybe not everyone, but the Dodgers sure will be.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

NEXT SERIES FOR DODGERS

WHO: Colorado Rockies

WHERE: at Denver

WHEN: Thursday: 6 p.m.; Friday: 6 p.m.; Saturday: 1 p.m.; Sunday: Noon.

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