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Mondesi Hot, and It Shows

Dodgers: Angry after dropping to No. 5 in lineup, he hits eighth homer to pace 3-2 victory over Brewers.

April 28, 1999|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MILWAUKEE — Raul Mondesi has been bumped from cleanup to fifth in the batting order, and the Dodger right fielder is displeased with the apparent demotion.

Mondesi's coaches and teammates counseled him about Manager Davey Johnson's decision before Tuesday night's game against Milwaukee, telling Mondesi the move was made to try to jump-start the offense.

But Mondesi said he still seethed throughout the game--and the Dodgers couldn't be happier. Mondesi expressed his frustration against the Brewers, hitting a two-run home run in the sixth inning that lifted the Dodgers to a 3-2 victory before a crowd of 11,028 at County Stadium.

Mondesi's National League-leading eighth homer staked Dodger starter Kevin Brown to a 3-2 lead. Mondesi also singled and scored the Dodgers' first run in the second inning, going two for four. First baseman Eric Karros, elevated from fifth to cleanup, went hitless in four at-bats.

Left-hander Pedro Borbon helped Brown (2-1) get out of a jam in seventh, striking out Jeromy Burnitz with two on and two out. Alan Mills pitched a scoreless eighth, and closer Jeff Shaw worked a perfect ninth to nail down his fifth save and the victory for Brown.

Brown gave up six hits--including Burnitz's sixth homer--and two runs. Brown struggled with his control in 6 2/3 innings, walking four and striking out seven while throwing 111 pitches, 60 for strikes.

Brewer starter Rafael Roque (0-2) handled the Dodgers through five innings. Roque began the sixth with a 2-1 lead--but Mondesi was waiting.

On a night the Dodgers moved back to .500 (10-10), Mondesi was the talk of the clubhouse.

"We talked before the game, and I told Mondy to just play," said longtime Dodger coach and Mondesi mentor Manny Mota. "I told Mondy he was going to get three hits tonight, and he got two. So I was close on that. Everything will be fine as long as Mondy relaxes."

Left fielder Gary Sheffield said Mondesi typically performs best when he's in his worst mood.

"Ever since I've been here, every time Mondy gets mad he hits a home run," said Sheffield, who singled in the sixth and scored on Mondesi's homer. "The first thing I'm going to do when I get here [to the stadium] tomorrow is go to Davey and tell him to keep Mondy fifth."

With one out in the sixth, Sheffield singled to center. Karros then flied out for the second out with Mondesi on deck.

On a full count against Roque, Mondesi slammed his eighth homer over the left-field wall, giving the Dodgers the lead. Six of Mondesi's homers have either tied scores or given the Dodgers leads.

In addition to leading the league in homers, Mondesi also tops the Dodgers with 16 runs batted in.

But Mondesi has not produced consistently with runners in scoring position, batting .174. His average drops to .143 with two out.

Mondesi was infuriated before Tuesday's game, saying making a move based on his performance to this point is unfair.

"You're not going to do the job in three weeks," said Mondesi, batting .263. "It's a long season. The season is six months.

"How come they have to change me? We have nine players. How come I'm always the one who has to change?"

Afterward, his tone wasn't as harsh. Mondesi's face was creased by a wide smile, although the cleanup situation still dominated his thoughts.

"Any time you do well, you have to feel good, especially when your team wins," Mondesi said. "I'm always going to play hard, give 100% and just play the game. I just want to get a chance for the whole year [batting cleanup] and see what happens."

Second baseman Eric Young echoed the thoughts of many in the clubhouse, saying Mondesi has nothing to worry about.

"It's more of a stamp on Mondesi's chest if he's batting fourth," Young said. "But no matter if Mondy bats fourth or fifth, he's going to help us as long as he's in the lineup."

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