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Gibson Might Be Just What Dodgers Need : Baseball: He may be in the lineup against the Reds tonight. Los Angeles loses its third in a row at Pittsburgh.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The slumping Dodgers lost their third consecutive game Wednesday, 5-3 to the Pittsburgh Pirates, and face the start of their most important series to date.

But they can take heart in one thing. The Cincinnati Reds aren’t the only hot property coming to town.

Kirk Gibson could be on his way, too.

Sources say if Gibson’s knee feels well this morning after his fifth rehabilitation start for triple-A Albuquerque on Wednesday night, he could be the center fielder in the Dodger lineup tonight.

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“I’m not ruling that possibility out,” said Fred Claire, Dodger vice president.

The Dodgers cannot afford to rule anything out. Wednesday’s loss marked only the second time the Dodgers have been swept in a three-game series this season, and the first time they have been nine games behind the National League West-leading Reds.

Gibson, who has not played since July and had surgery on his left knee Aug. 29, has spent the past week exposing his knee to nearly every baserunning situation, and found it healthy. He has also hit well for Albuquerque, although his bat strength was never in question.

He played seven innings and stole his first base for Albuquerque on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning, the knee felt good, and the Dodgers decided he could be ready after one more game. He went one for three with a double and a run batted in as a designated hitter Wednesday night.

“He has run from first to third base, he has gone back to second base after taking a big lead, he has been upbeat to the point where, all the signs are good,” Claire said. “But we are dealing with the reality of, the knee has to feel fine the next day after he plays. It is quite literally on a day-to-day basis.

“We are not pushing him just to be ready for the start of the Cincinnati series. He has to be comfortable. But so far, he has recovered well. He is very close.”

Claire was scheduled to speak with Gibson late Wednesday night and this morning, during which a decision will probably be made. If Gibson is not ready today, he should arrive during the weekend.

Claire said that Gibson will play center field, though he has struggled there in Albuquerque, making two errors.

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“The way we are aligned, that is the best position for him,” Claire said of Gibson. “Kal (Daniels) is not someone who can play center field, and Kirk has played there before. The way it is, we really don’t have a better idea.”

Although Gibson’s bat and inspiration are greatly needed, it would be nice if he could reach into his bag and find a Gold Glove. The Dodgers lost Wednesday’s game not because starter Ramon Martinez allowed eight hits in four innings, but because of poor defense.

Juan Samuel booted the first ball the Pirates hit, allowing a ground ball by Wally Backman to bounce off his glove at second base and roll into the outfield. Mike Scioscia was called for catcher’s interference one out later when his glove tipped the bat of Andy Van Slyke.

What could have been three outs was one out, a fact appreciated by Bobby Bonilla, who followed with a run-scoring single, and Barry Bonds, who hit a two-run home run to give the Pirates a 3-0 lead.

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Two innings later, the Dodgers faltered again. Bonilla’s fly ball to left field took an unusual bounce over Daniels’ head, giving Bonilla a triple.

With Bonilla racing home on the sound of the bat hitting the ball, Bonds hit a potential double-play grounder to Martinez. But Martinez’s throw to Murray at first base was high, barely good enough for one out. Murray, forced to hurry, had trouble getting the ball out of his glove and was late with the throw home, allowing Bonds to score.

Sid Bream followed with a home run to make it 5-0. With Dodger hitters failing in the clutch, the game was essentially over.

“It was not Ramon’s fault we lost this game,” Scioscia said.

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Thus a team that came within three outs of winning six consecutive games, as the Dodgers were in the ninth inning here Monday, were outscored, 20-8, in the next 19 innings and lost three in a row.

Despite winning five of eight games on the trip, the Dodgers have lost ground to Cincinnati.

“I really think once we go home, things will be all right,” the Dodgers’ Mickey Hatcher said, pausing. “Well, hopefully. Talk to me in two days.”

Dodger Notes

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Mike Sharperson wasted the Dodgers’ best and final chance at a comeback Wednesday when he was struck out by Ted Power with runners on second and third and two out in the seventh. It was just Sharperson’s 11th strikeout this season. “No excuses, but with the starting time (5 p.m. EST), it was really hard to see the ball,” Sharperson said. “I couldn’t pick it up at all.” Sharperson wasn’t the only one complaining about the shadows caused by the starting time, which was implemented so the Dodgers would have time to fly home for tonight’s game. “I’d rather have my wisdom teeth pulled than play at 5 o’clock,” said the Pirates’ Andy Van Slyke, who made two errors in center field. “And I’ve had my wisdom teeth pulled.”

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said Wednesday that contrary to television reports, he is not feuding with Vice President Fred Claire and is not a candidate to become the next permanent manager of the New York Mets. “Fred Claire and I are very good friends, I enjoy working for Fred Claire, I love my job, I am the happiest guy in the world.” Lasorda did not deny the foundation of the report--that he has not received an extension on a contract that expires after this season. “But I’m not thinking about that now,” Lasorda said. “I’ve got a job to do. I’m thinking about 1990.”


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