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It May Be Too Much of a Blast for Cora

Baseball: Game-tying home run in seventh puts Dodgers in gear, but his celebration fuels Padre animosity.

September 23, 2002|JASON REID | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SAN DIEGO — Alex Cora got caught up in the moment, Adam Eaton fumed and the Dodgers may have added to their problems in a 4-3 victory Sunday over the San Diego Padres at Qualcomm Stadium.

Cora pointed his right index finger skyward while tying the score, 3-3, in the seventh inning on a two-out home run to right field, angering Eaton and igniting an exchange between the players that prompted umpire Wally Bell to instruct the Dodgers to cool it.

Cora acknowledged he got "a little bit too emotional" and apologized for posing, and Eaton said he understood the situation with the Dodgers battling the San Francisco Giants for the National League wild-card berth.

Understanding and forgiving, though, are not the same thing, and the last-place Padres don't enjoy being taunted by their wealthy neighbors.

The Dodger rotation is in tatters, leadoff batter Dave Roberts is sidelined because of an injury and the Giants lead the NL wild-card race by two games with six to play.

The Padres and Dodgers finish the season with four games at Chavez Ravine beginning Thursday, and it appears the Padres won't forget Cora's big moment as they try to end the Dodgers' season the same time as theirs.

"It wasn't like a Kirk Gibson home run," said Eaton, alluding to the former Dodger's dramatic two-out, ninth-inning shot that won Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

"He hit a home run to tie a game. He tied up a ballgame with a home run, and I think he was pretty proud of himself."

Eaton fell behind Cora, 3 and 1, in the seventh after easily retiring Adrian Beltre and Mark Grudzielanek. The No. 8 hitter connected on a fastball, sending it over the right-field wall and beginning his celebration by extending the bat before dropping it and pointing.

"Just the emotions took over," Cora said. "When you're in that situation, you get a little bit too emotional. Just watching it on replay, I think I did, and I've got to apologize for that. At the same time, people have to realize we're playing for our lives here. It's all heart right now.

"Sometimes, when you get a big hit, you react that way. It happens. I just finished my swing, saw the ball was gone and whatever happened, happened. The emotions took over and people have to recognize that. I know that's not part of the game, I'm the first one to accept it. At the same time, we're playing for a lot of things here."

The smooth-fielding infielder has helped the Dodgers remain in contention, batting .290 and establishing himself in his third full season. Cora, whose strong play led to the Aug. 1 benching of shortstop Cesar Izturis, is one of the most respected players in the clubhouse, and the Dodgers believe too much was made of his impromptu gesture.

"I've never seen Alex Cora say anything to anyone for two years," said Manager Jim Tracy, who exchanged words with Bell after he warned the Dodgers about their comments toward Eaton in the eighth. "He's a winning baseball player. That's what Alex Cora is."

Eaton is scheduled to make his final start Saturday at Dodger Stadium, and he's looking forward to the opportunity.

"Things were said," Eaton said. "We'll see what happens."

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