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Coles’ Catch Shuts Off Dodger Comeback, 4-3

Times Staff Writer

In case anyone missed it the first time, highlights of the Dodgers’ late-inning comeback win over St. Louis Wednesday night, courtesy of Franklin Stubbs’ dramatic grand slam, were replayed in vivid color on the scoreboard for all to see.

Friday night’s sequel at Dodger Stadium featured the same basic plot, if a different opponent. The Dodgers fell behind early. They stranded baserunners in scoring position. They looked as inspired as department store mannequins. Then, in a one-inning revival, they tried to erase their previous poor play from the record.

This time, however, the Dodgers could not quite pull it off. After trailing the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-0, as a result of shoddy fielding combined with a slumbering offense, the Dodgers staged a sixth-inning comeback--followed by a close call in the seventh--but could merely narrow the margin of defeat to 4-3 before a crowd of 40,690. In this comeback, John Shelby took over Stubbs’ hero role and hit a three-run home run to right field off Doug Drabek to pull the Dodgers within a run.

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The rally continued when Mike Scioscia doubled to center field off Drabek, and against reliever Barry Jones, Jeff Hamilton walked. At that point, many in the crowd stood, and Dodger players waved towels in the dugout in hopes of a repeat performance. But Dave Anderson grounded into a force play to end the rally.

Dodger hopes were revived briefly in the seventh when leadoff hitter Tracy Woodson launched a deep fly to right center field. Darnell Coles made a diving catch on the warning track, ending up on top of center fielder Andy Van Slyke. The two remained motionless while Woodson rounded the bases.

He was called out, however, by umpire Larry Poncino, near second base. Manager Tom Lasorda questioned the call, believing that Coles may have dropped the ball when he rolled over, out of the umpire’s view.

“All I know is that, if (Coles) dropped it, I score,” Woodson said. “I figured he caught it because he rolled over. But maybe he just couldn’t get up.”

Some in the crowd chanted for a replay. But the replay showed the ball going into Cole’s glove. Then, he rolled over, away from view.

“I just turned and ran,” said Coles, who confirmed that he made the catch. “The ball just jumped in my glove.”

After that, the Dodgers went quietly in the eighth and ninth innings to lose for the first time in four games. The defeat reduced their National League West lead to 4 1/2 games over the San Francisco Giants.

Lasorda, his contract-extension celebration dampened by the loss, was unimpressed by close calls.

“It’s a loss,” Lasorda said, shrugging. “But we did battle them all night. That ball Woodson hit could have changed the complexion of the whole game. If (Coles) caught it, he made a hell of a catch.”

Shelby’s sixth-inning home run off Drabek, who improved his record to 6-5, came after consecutive singles by Kirk Gibson and Mike Marshall with two outs. Shelby said he simply wanted to make contact.

“I assume it was a changeup he threw me,” said Shelby, who has five home runs. “He threw them all night. I just tried to make contact, maybe drive a guy in and keep the rally going.” Dodger starter Tim Leary (7-6), coming off a complete-game win over Chicago, endured his poorest start since his one-inning fiasco on May 1 against the Cardinals.

He lasted just 3 innings, giving up 7 hits and striking out 2. While only one of the four runs he allowed was earned, Leary himself made a fielding error that eventually led to a three-run Pirate inning and his early departure.

It came on Rafael Belliard’s ground ball back to the mound just as Leary finished his follow-through. The ball trickled between his legs, loading the bases for Van Slyke, whose two-run single made it 3-0, Pirates. Bobby Bonilla followed with a run-scoring single just beyond second baseman Steve Sax’s reach for a 4-0 Pirate lead.

But continued strong relief pitching by Brian Holton, who worked out of Leary’s lingering fourth-inning jam, Tim Crews (two scoreless innings) and Alejandro Pena prevented the Dodgers from falling too far behind.

Even though this rally fell short, many Dodgers still said they have confidence in their ability to come from behind in the late innings.

“I think we’ve showed over the last couple of weeks that we are capable of doing this,” Shelby said. “Tonight, we were just a run short.”

Dodger Notes

Without consulting either his doctor or Dodger trainers, Pedro Guerrero (pinched nerve in his neck) took batting practice before Wednesday night’s game. Dr. Robert Watkins, the specialist treating Guerrero’s injury, had told Guerrero to wait until after the All-Star break before trying to take batting practice. But Guerrero took several batting-practice swings, apparently without discomfort. “As far as I know, he did it on his own,” trainer Bill Buhler said. “We talked about it before, and he knew about (the timetable). But I guess he felt good enough to hit.” Buhler also said that Guerrero was supposed to be having daily traction treatments but had stopped them. “He didn’t do it very religiously,” Buhler said. “He just stopped coming in, and we stopped nagging him about it.”

Guerrero had an eventful batting practice. One of his foul balls hit Liz Shanov, an ABC radio reporter, on the left side of the head. She was not seriously hurt and was given the ball--autographed by Guerrero. . . . Kirk Gibson would not elaborate on his plans during the All-Star break. He said he in a statement Thursday that he had declined a possible bid because he wanted to rest a hamstring injury. “Why is everybody so interested in this?” Gibson asked. “I’ll be rested and ready to play when we get to Chicago. What I do is my business.” . . . Democratic Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis attended Friday night’s game. He sat behind the visitors’ dugout with Sen. Alan Cranston.


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