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Dodger Offense Is Lumbering

Baseball: Hundley, Karros, Hollandsworth and Mondesi hit homers in 12-7 win over Pirates.

July 20, 1999|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

PITTSBURGH — Things are much easier for the Dodgers when they pound opponents like they did Monday night during a 12-7 victory over the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. And the Dodgers have been doing that more often lately.

They had four home runs among 14 hits in winning for the seventh time in nine games before a crowd of 14,805. The Dodgers have scored at least 11 runs four times in that span.

On Monday, they quickly jumped on struggling Pirate starter Jose Silva, taking a 3-0 lead in the first inning. They matched their season high for homers in a game and never trailed.

Catcher Todd Hundley hit the fifth grand slam of his career in the third to give the Dodgers a 7-2 lead, which helped to end Silva's outing. Silva (2-8) gave up seven runs (six earned) in dropping his fifth straight start.

Hundley homered for the 13th time this season, and Eric Karros and Todd Hollandsworth added back-to-back shots in the four-run fourth against reliever Pete Schourek, who gave up three homers. Raul Mondesi opened the seventh with a solo shot--his team-leading 21st--against the left-hander.

After going 112 at-bats without a homer, the right fielder has hit two in his last 12 at-bats. That's one of many good signs recently for the Dodgers, Manager Davey Johnson said.

"I love offense because offense makes everything better," Johnson said. "Offense makes your pitching better, and offense makes your defense better. They talk about pitching all the time, but this is the offensive age. You have to be able to swing that lumber."

With few exceptions, the Dodgers have been during their solid stretch.

Karros' three-run shot marked his 20th homer of the season. He has hit at least 20 homers the last five seasons, one of only seven players in franchise history to accomplish that feat.

"We've been playing well for the last week and a half or so," said Karros, one of only seven players in franchise history to accomplish the 20-homer feat in five consecutive seasons.

"Because of the situation we're in, we're going to have to play like this the rest of the way. Hopefully, we'll be able to carry this thing on."

The Dodgers (42-49) just might if people continue to contribute like they did Monday.

Craig Counsell filled in well at second base and atop the batting order for Eric Young, who was sidelined because of a strained right hamstring. Counsell doubled to open the game, singled in the fourth and scored two runs.

Gary Sheffield also set the table. The All-Star left fielder reached base in all five of his plate appearances, scoring three runs with a run batted in.

"We're playing like we should be playing now," said Sheffield, now batting .304. "Guys are taking pitches, getting walks and being aggressive at the plate. When guys get on in front of you, it makes everything a whole lot easier."

The strong support helped Darren Dreifort (8-8) even his record, though the right-hander gave up three homers. Dreifort survived a shaky start to pitch 6 2/3 innings in winning in his second straight outing.

However, it appeared Dreifort might not pitch long enough Monday to qualify for the victory.

Al Martin and Brian Giles hit solo homers in the first to cut the Dodger lead to 3-2. Kevin Young then hit a two-run homer in the fourth, but the Dodgers had an 11-4 lead by then.

Dreifort settled down, retiring the side in order in the fifth and sixth. He got the first two batters in the seventh before being removed.

"Dreifort made a couple of bad pitches early in the game, but other than that, he settled down and hit his spots exceptionally well," Johnson said. "He kept the ball down, and he moved it in and out of the strike zone."

Dreifort's batterymate also was impressed.

"He found his slider and he threw it at key times in counts," Hundley said. "He threw it when he was behind in the count, and that was the key."

All those runs helped too.

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