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After a Stroll, Dodgers Fall to Second : Baseball: Butler’s dramatic homer ties it, but a bases-loaded walk in the ninth inning gives Pirates lead in 6-4 victory. Braves alone in first after winning.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers fell to second place for the first time in 106 days Wednesday.

And there was nothing even Brett Butler-style dramatics could do about it.

“Isn’t this something?” said Butler, ashen-face while staring at a post-game hamburger. “Amazing.”

Within 10 minutes of Butler’s game-tying, three-run home run in the eighth inning, the Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Dodgers, 6-4, on Jay Howell’s bases-loaded walk to Bobby Bonilla and a fly ball by Barry Bonds in the ninth.

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It was Butler’s second home run this season and first in 414 at-bats. But it was the Dodgers’ 26th loss in 46 games since the All-Star break.

The loss, coupled with the Atlanta Braves’ 3-1 victory over the New York Mets, dropped the Dodgers one game out of first place for the first time since May 13.

They have lost 10 1/2 games to the Braves since July 11, the start of the second half of the season.

“There’s only so much you can do,” Butler said.

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Before 39,040 at Dodger Stadium, Butler appeared to do it all with one out in the eighth inning against Doug Drabek, who had given up only one run and four hits before the inning started. Butler followed a double by rookie Dave Hansen and a bad-hop single by pinch-hitter Chris Gwynn with a high fly ball toward the right-field corner.

The ball dropped toward the fans in the front rows just as right-fielder Bobby Bonilla reached the fence.

“I had a chance at it, but then there were all these waving arms,” Bonilla said. “Everybody wanted a piece of it. And somebody else got it.”

Butler’s energetic romp about the bases, which included shouting and fist-pumping, was followed by his first curtain call as a Dodger.

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But then came one of his worst moments as a Dodger: standing helplessly in center field while his team fell apart in the ninth inning.

“Yeah, it was very tough to watch,” Butler said.

Roger McDowell, the fifth Dodger pitcher, started the ninth by giving up singles to pinch-hitter Gary Varsho and Gary Redus. After a league-leading 25th sacrifice bunt by Jay Bell, Andy Van Slyke was walked intentionally to load the bases.

In came Howell, in one of his toughest spots of the season. He could not afford to throw anything that Bonilla, in the middle of a career-high 18-game hitting streak, could touch. And Bonilla knew it.

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“Because I was swinging the bat so well, I was able to be very patient up there,” Bonilla said. “I felt if I had one or two strikes on me, I could still put the ball in play.”

It never got as far as two strikes. Howell threw him a strike, then four consecutive balls. The final pitch was outside, and the Pirates led, 5-4. Moments later, Bonds padded that lead with a fly ball.

“It’s a tough thing, to come from so far back and still fall short,” Gwynn said. “A lot of times, you tie a game like that at home, you go on to win that game.”

Gwynn sighed. “Well, we’re in second place now . . . after being in first for a lot of days.”

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As recently as last weekend, this two-game series was pegged as as battle between division leaders, a playoff preview. But at this point, the Dodgers are not looking further than the next nine innings.

“It’s a 36-game season, and everybody’s got to take inventory,” Butler said. “This will separate the men from the boys.”

When the Braves defeated the Mets early Wednesday evening, pushing the Dodgers one-half game into second place, it appeared to be the wakeup call many Dodgers claimed they needed.

But during the early parts of Wednesday’s game, they did not budge. They looked very much like somebody who plans on sleeping until October.

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The offense, which managed only three hits against a rookie pitcher at Chicago Tuesday, could barely touch Drabek. Dodger starter Bob Ojeda gave up six hits in five innings, including three doubles and a home run.

But the home run wasn’t all Ojeda’s fault, and it typified the Dodgers’ recent problems.

With the Pirates leading, 1-0, after two innings on doubles by Bonds and Don Slaught, Ojeda started the third inning by getting Redus to pop a ball down the first base line, deep in foul territory.

Neither first baseman Eddie Murray nor second baseman Juan Samuel could run it down, with the ball bouncing just out of Murray’s reach.

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Redus drove the next pitch over the left-field fence. Ojeda then allowed singles to Bell and Van Slyke before Bonilla hit a fly ball to center field to make it 3-0.


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