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Candaele Still a Thorn in Side of Dodgers, 5-3

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Houston Astros’ Casey Candaele is 5-foot-9 and weighs 165 pounds.

He is a Lompoc native who is better known for his off-season surfing than his play during parts of four big-league seasons, but that is changing, witness his two-run home run in the seventh inning that helped beat the Dodgers, 5-3, Monday night.

Still the image is different. While most players have designer sweat suits in their lockers, Candaele keeps baggy shorts and high-top red tennis shoes. While most players hit home runs that are soon forgotten by everyone but their agents, Candaele hits home runs that cause celebrations.

Especially against the Dodgers.

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“I think everybody in the stadium was, like, ‘How in the hell did he do that?” Candaele said after his home run Monday night.

It was Candaele’s third career home run, but his second against the Dodgers in less than two months. And still they did not believe.

“When I was running the bases, everybody was like, giving me funny looks like, ‘That didn’t just happen, did it?’ ” said Candaele, who hit a 1-and-0 pitch from loser Mike Morgan over the right field fence with Rafael Ramirez on second base and one out.

Candaele’s first home run, in 1987 in Montreal, was deemed such a rarity that the Expos sprayed yellow paint over the seat where it landed. His second homer, April 21, was against Dodger starter Fernando Valenzuela. It so inspired the Astros that they scored two runs in the ninth off Jay Howell for a 6-5 victory.

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“I went over to Casey tonight in the seventh inning before he came up, and told him, ‘Remember, everybody says lightning doesn’t strike twice,” Astros Manager Art Howe said. “I told him, ‘Why don’t you prove them wrong.”

Before 15,996 at the Astrodome, Candaele added more proof that the Dodgers’ fight in the National League West might not be for first place, but third or fourth place.

With the loss, their third in four games, the Dodgers fall into a tie for third with the San Francisco Giants. It is the first time they have been worse than second since Candaele’s April 21 heroics. They are closer to sixth-place Atlanta, 4 1/2 games behind them, then they are to first-place Cincinnati, which is nine games ahead.

It might have been different Monday if they had been beaten by Glenn Davis. But Casey Candaele?

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“You mean ‘Babe?”’ asked one Dodger sarcastically.

Although he had a game-winning triple against Cincinnati Sunday, Candaele is hitting only .241 against the rest of the league--and .667 against the Dodgers in three at-bats. He is also hitting better against the Dodgers in his career, with a .391 average, than against anyone else.

“The guy came into the game as a defensive replacement,” said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, referring to Candaele’s appearance in right field in the seventh inning.

By that time, Morgan had given back a 3-0 Dodger lead forged in the fourth inning. The lead came on Eddie Murray’s two-run homer, his third in three games and eighth overall, and an RBI single by Mike Scioscia.

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Morgan, who fell to 6-5 with a 3.08 earned-run average, gave back the runs within minutes in the bottom of the fourth. At the time, he had not allowed an earned run in his previous 27 2/3 innings.

Bill Doran singled, and one out later Davis walked before Ken Caminiti hit a fly ball to deep center field. Kirk Gibson, making his seventh start, chased the ball until it bounced on the warning track and off the wall for a two-run double. Eric Anthony added another RBI double to right field to tie the score.

Morgan retired the side in the fifth and sixth, while the Dodgers were blowing their one big scoring chance. Murray ended an inning by being thrown out trying to take third base on a line-drive out to center field by Scioscia.

Ramirez started the winning rally in the seventh with a single to right. Rich Gedman, recently acquired from Boston, then sacrificed. Up stepped Candaele, who had just entered the game on a double-switch that sent winner Larry Andersen to the mound in relief of starter Mike Portugal.

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“Casey is the kind of guy who we look to for something crazy,” said Astro reliever Dave Smith.

Said Candaele: “Maybe they turned the air conditioners on high.”

Said Morgan: “I missed with an inside pitch and, hey, the man has a bat in his hands. You learn things from losses just like you learn from winning.”

Said Hubie Brooks, a former teammate of Candaele in Montreal: “I still remember that yellow seat up there. Man, in this game, you never know. You never know.”

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Dodger Notes

A small portion of the Astrodome was affected by an electric transformer failure, causing a brief blackout in the Dodger clubhouse and forcing the KTTV broadcast to use the picture provided by the local Houston cable telecast. . . . Relief pitcher Mike Hartley was weary when he arrived in Houston Monday afternoon because he did not catch a flight from triple-A Albuquerque until Monday morning. He was the last person to learn of his Sunday afternoon recall, which came after the Dodgers put reliever Pat Perry on the disabled list. Because Hartley was on the minor league seven-day disabled list (strained groin muscle), the Dodgers could not officially recall him until those seven days expired at midnight Sunday. “Even my mom in San Diego had heard on the radio about me coming up, but nobody could tell me until after our game Sunday night,” Hartley said.


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