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Given a Second Chance, Brooks Makes Expos Pay

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Those who know Hubie Brooks saw it coming.

With one out in the ninth inning of a 2-2 tie with Montreal Wednesday, Hubie Brooks lifted a foul pop behind home plate. Mike Fitzgerald, the Expo catcher, drifted under the ball, watched it hit his glove . . . and dropped it.

Those who know Hubie Brooks were certain of it. You give the Dodgers’ top pressure hitter an extra out in a pressure situation, you pay.

“I turned to Fernando (Valenzuela) in the dugout after the guy dropped the foul and I said, ‘You know what that means,’ ” Chris Gwynn said. “That means he’s going deep.”

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On the next pitch from Drew Hall, Brooks swung, stared, then stalked around the bases as the ball disappeared over the left-center-field fence, 400 feet from home plate. His second late-inning, game-winning homer in 34 games this season gave the Dodgers their third consecutive 3-2 victory and a sweep of this three-game series.

Brooks rescued Dodger starter Mike Morgan, who came within one pitch of ending the game in the top of the ninth when he gave up a game-tying homer to Tim Wallach. Brooks also rescued the club’s hopes for revenge after being swept in three games in Montreal last week.

He also gave inspiration to a team that after the game activated its top relief pitcher, Jay Howell. The Dodgers have moved back into second place in the National League West, eight games behind the Cincinnati Reds, and suddenly life doesn’t seem too terrible.

But more than anything, on Wednesday night Brooks did what he does best. He left the Dodgers, their opponents, and what remained of the Dodger Stadium crowd of 24,158 with open mouths.

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“When he was with us in the late innings, you wanted to see him up,” said Buck Rodgers, Montreal’s manager and Brooks’ former boss there. “But now that he is not with us . . . you don’t want to see him up.”

Said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda: “The report on him has always been that the late innings are his innings. I guess that report is right.”

Said Gwynn: “Hubie seems to wake up when the game is on the line. It’s like he lives for that situation. You can’t see it, but you can feel it.”

Brooks reacted as he has reacted after each of his team-leading seven homers this year. He stifled a yawn.

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“I wasn’t trying to hit a home run. Absolutely not many people hit them when they try,” Brooks said, adding that there was little revenge factor because he left Montreal as a free agent only because he wanted to return to his home in Southern California.

“This is pretty satisfying considering what happened in the previous inning,” Brooks said.

In the top of the ninth, Morgan nearly blew a perfectly good victory. With the Dodgers leading, 2-1, Morgan retired the first two hitters before Wallach hit a breaking ball into the right-field seats for Wallach’s seventh homer and his third against the Dodgers this year.

“This shows what we are made of,” Morgan said with a sigh. “We have not gotten many breaks lately, but we got one tonight.”

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Morgan gave up two runs on seven hits to improve to 5-2 and lower his earned-run average to 2.66.

The Dodgers had taken a 2-0 lead in the third on Kal Daniels’ second homer in two games, a two-run shot off Expo starter Mark Gardner. But the right-handed Los Angeles native, one of the league’s top rookie pitchers, shut the Dodgers down after that.

Morgan also shut the Expos down except for the fourth, in which he allowed a fluke run.

Marquis Grissom led off with a single. Tim Raines’ grounder forced Grissom at second, then Raines took second when third baseman Lenny Harris threw Andres Galarraga’s grounder wildly to first base for an error. Wallach singled to right to score Raines, while Wallach and Galarraga moved to second and third on Daniels’ wild throw from left field.

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Two errors on two plays often disrupts pitchers. But not Morgan, at least not on this night. After intentionally walking Larry Walker to load the bases, he induced Fitzgerald into a line drive that shortstop Alfredo Griffin leaped and grabbed for one out, before trotting to second base to complete the double play.

Dodger Notes

In completing a rehabilitation from April 24 arthroscopic knee surgery, reliever Jay Howell will be activated Friday after an impressive simulated game Wednesday. Even though he had trouble with his control, Howell threw one strong inning, impressing both Dodger coaches and hitters with his 29 pitches. “I don’t think he’s going to throw much harder than that,” said Brian Traxler, the backup first baseman. . . . Mike Munoz will be demoted to make room for Howell.

Another injured Dodger pitcher was not so happy Wednesday, as Jim Gott learned he will remain on the disabled list for at least another week. In his simulated game, Gott threw 43 pitches at what Dodger officials considered less than top velocity. Gott is being sent back to Class-A Bakersfield for one more rehabilitation appearance, a four- or five-inning stint on Sunday in Stockton. “I’m ready to pitch major league games,” a frustrated Gott said. . . . Kirk Gibson is closer to returning to active duty. He had an apparently great batting practice Wednesday, but was not satisfied. He had seven homers, a ground-rule double, and four balls off the wall in about 10 minutes of hitting. “I’m just trying to get my work in,” said Gibson, shaking hishead.

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