Dodger Hare Beaten, 9-4, by Padre Tortoise : Baseball: A habit of blowing leads resurfaces. This time the margin is 4-0, and an opportunity to close to within 3 1/2 games of the Reds is lost.


The Dodgers did their imitation of the comic book character “The Flash” Wednesday. That was how quickly they managed to surrender an early 4-0 lead and lose going away, 9-4.

Whatever the reason, the Dodgers continued a trend of building big early leads, then watching helplessly as they disappear as rapidly as the club’s chances in the National League West race.

The Dodgers had a golden opportunity to draw to within 3 1/2 games of the division-leading Cincinnati Reds, who had already lost to the Houston Astros, 5-2. And it appeared they might make the most of it, pulling to a 4-0 lead after three innings.


But the opportunity faded when the Padres jumped on Fernando Valenzuela and several relief pitchers for nine runs in the middle innings--highlighted by Joe Carter’s two-run single in the fifth and Benito Santiago’s grand slam the next inning--to make a winner of Derek Lilliquist (4-10) and send much of the Dodger Stadium crowd of 26,996 heading for the exits after seven innings.

The Dodgers staged minor threats, putting two runners on base in both the eighth and ninth innings, but were stymied after their early outburst. San Diego collected 14 hits, 10 of them from the fifth inning on. The Dodgers had 12 hits but left nine on base.

With the loss, the Dodgers remain 4 1/2 games behind the Reds with 13 games to play. The Padres will continue to have a say in the race, playing Cincinnati six more times and closing the season with a three-game series against the Dodgers.

The Reds, playing less than .500 ball since midseason, have given the Dodgers a chance to make a run in the West. “We’re not completely out of opportunities,” a somber Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said. “We just missed on this on tonight.

“It’s a tough loss, no question about it. Cincy loses, we score four in the first three innings--that’s the thing that hurts the most, when you go up by four (and lose). We have to come back tomorrow.”

Rookie reliever Darren Holmes (0-1) was the losing pitcher. Greg Harris got his eighth save for the Padres.


The Dodgers scored single runs in the first two innings, the second coming when Valenzuela, with a runner on third, lined a hit to the right-center alley. He slowed rounding first, then took off for second, legging out a double.

Eddie Murray, who knocked in the first run with a groundout, hit his 25th homer in the third inning, a two-run shot into the left-field pavilion. Murray had two hits and his batting remains at .325.

But Valenzuela--who has not made it through the fifth inning in three of his last four outings--faltered in the fifth when San Diego sent nine men to the plate and scored three runs, chasing him with the bases loaded and two out. Holmes ended the rally with a strikeout.

Holmes was in bases-loaded trouble again in the sixth but had drastically different results. With two men on and first base open, the Dodgers decided to walk Carter and pitch to Santiago, who slugged Holmes’ 1-and-0 pitch over the left-field wall for a 7-4 lead.

Said Holmes: “I fell behind. I couldn’t get my breaking pitch in for a strike, (so) I had to come in with a fastball. You have to make the perfect pitch. It was a big game and we lost, that’s all you can say. It’s not a good feeling, getting a grand slam hit off you.”

The Padres added their final runs in the seventh when pinch-hitter Mike Pagliarulo delivered a two-run homer.


“You like to play a club that’s in it,” San Diego Manager Greg Riddoch said. “I didn’t think (the Dodgers) were tight at all. The team that’s tight right now is Cincinnati.”

That’s little solace for the Dodgers.

Dodger Notes

Kal Daniels’ third-inning double gave him an eight-game hitting streak. . . . Eddie Murray’s third-inning home run gave him five homers and 11 runs batted in for the month. . . . Fernando Valenzuela’s start was the 318th of his career, sixth-best in Dodger history. Earlier this month Valenzuela passed Sandy Koufax, who started 314. Just ahead of Valenzuela are Dazzy Vance at 326, Brickyard Kennedy at 332 and Claude Osteen at 335.

Former Met catcher Barry Lyons, signed recently as a free agent, has been working out this week at the Dodgers’ Instructional League camp in Mesa, Ariz., and is expected to join the club in time for Friday’s game with San Francisco.

Jack Clark’s first-inning base on balls gave him a 12-game walk streak, with 18 in that stretch. Despite missing 45 games, Clark leads the National League with 93 bases on balls. . . . Padre outfielder Shawn Abner strained his left hamstring beating out an infield single and had to leave in the second inning. . . . Right-hander Andy Benes, tonight’s starter for the Padres, has been a nemesis of the Dodgers since he arrived in the big leagues last August. Benes takes a 10-8 record into the game but has not had a decision in four consecutive starts. In five career starts against Los Angeles, he is 3-0 with an 0.51 earned-run average and 16 hits in 35 innings. This year in three starts, he is 1-0 with a 0.89 ERA and has allowed 10 hits in 20 innings. Last year he twice beat Orel Hershiser, 1-0.

Before Sunday’s game, 31 Dodger farmhands and coaches will be honored for a variety of achievements ranging from earning all-star honors to reaching postseason play. Six Dodger farm teams reached league playoffs, three players won batting titles and two--shortstop Jose Offerman in the Pacific Coast League and outfielder Henry Rodriguez in the Texas League--won most valuable player awards.