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Baseball: Dodgers beat Rockies again, but it's a case of too little, too late.


DENVER — There are no more magic numbers for the Dodgers.

No more travel plans.

No more big games ahead.

All the Dodgers will need for the playoffs is a comfortable chair, a bowl of chips, some cool liquid refreshment and a big-screen television.

A season of potential and hope ended in frustration and agony Saturday. After leading the National League West by two games with 11 to play, the Dodgers were officially eliminated from the division race despite defeating the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field for the third time in a row, 6-1, in front of 48,025.

It didn't matter. Because in San Francisco's 3Com Park, the Giants were also 6-1 winners, beating the San Diego Padres.

The math is simple. The Dodgers are two games behind with one to play.

They will end the season today, probably using many of the young players they hope represent a bright future, while wrestling with how their immediate past turned so bleak so fast.

The last vestige of hope disappeared as the Dodgers were sealing their victory by scoring three runs in the ninth inning.

Almost at the same time, the Giants were blowing open their game. As the information was posted on the Coors Field scoreboard, it hit the Dodgers hard.

Sure, they knew after getting swept by the Rockies last weekend at Dodger Stadium and then losing a crucial game to the Padres on Wednesday to fall 2 1/2 back that their chances were slim.

But until Saturday, they could still deny reality.

"When I looked up at that scoreboard," second baseman Eric Young said, "I went blank for a moment. I thought, 'Wow, we're not going to the playoffs.' "

Fred Claire, executive vice president, tried to point out the positive as well as the negative.

"This team was eight games behind [on June 30]," he said. "A lot of teams never come back from that. That speaks a lot to the spirit of this team. But this will be remembered as a team that did not get into postseason play after doing so the last two years. You never want to take a step backward.

"I take responsibility. A lot of soul-searching has to take place."

Will he shake up the Dodgers for 1998?

"You never take the same team picture twice," Claire said.

Although it is too little, too late, the Dodgers have shown the kind of resiliency the last three days they lacked down the stretch run.

After slugging 10 home runs in the first two games of this series,en route to easy victories, the Dodgers used good pitching, timely hitting and took advantage of some mistakes by the Rockies Saturday.

Ramon Martinez had his longest and strongest outing since coming off the disabled list in August after recovering from a torn rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder. He pitched 7 2/3 innings, giving up a run on five hits. He struck out six and walked only two.

Raul Mondesi drove in a run with a double in the first inning when his pop fly bounced off the glove of shortstop Walt Weiss. The Dodgers got a gift run in the second after third baseman Vinny Castilla dropped a popup when second baseman Neifi Perez ran into him. The run later scored on a single by Otis Nixon, who also had a sacrifice fly. The other three runs came in the ninth on RBI doubles by Todd Hollandsworth and Eric Anthony and an RBI single by Young.

But none of that will be remembered. All the Dodgers will recall is that they trudged off the field burdened by the knowledge that their season will end today.

Third baseman Todd Zeile isn't a big believer in second-guessing, and he wasn't about to start listing the games he thinks his team let get away, although there is a tendency to do so on a team that comes so close.

"I think that is a complete waste of time and energy," Zeile said. "I know what a team looks like on paper and what happens on the field and they are two completely different things."

Asked if he agreed with those who say there wasn't enough passion in the Dodger clubhouse, Zeile replied, "They don't spend enough time in this clubhouse."

Mostly, Zeile wanted to reflect on the passing of another season and the inevitable changes to come.

"Some people take the quickest exit to wherever their life is after baseball," Zeile said. "There are not many businesses where, at the end of the work week, you may never see some of these people again."

Every season ends like that. The Dodgers just didn't expect it to happen so soon.





TEAM W L GB GIANTS 90 71 -- DODGERS 88 73 2



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, W, 6-2, SEPT. 23

Dodgers vs. Padres, L, 4-1, SEPT. 24

Dodgers at Rockies, W, 9-5, SEPT. 25

Dodgers at Rockies, W, 10-4, SEPT. 26

Dodgers at Rockies, W, 6-1, SEPT. 27

Dodgers at Rockies, SEPT. 28


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, W, 11-5, SEPT. 22

Giants at Rockies, L, 7-6, SEPT. 23

Giants at Rockies, W, 4-3, SEPT. 24


Giants vs. Padres, W, 17-4, SEPT. 26

Giants vs. Padres, W, 6-1, SEPT. 27

Giants vs. Padres, SEPT. 28

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