Persistence Keeps Dodgers in First, 5-4 : Baseball: After trailing, 2-0, L.A. scores one in the fourth, two in the fifth and two in the seventh to beat Astros. Braves also win.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Eddie Murray and Darryl Strawberry did their jobs, helping the Dodgers produce three runs.

But when the Dodgers needed to break a 3-3 tie, this time to help maintain their half-a-game hold on first place in the National League West, Mike Sharperson figured it was his turn to chip in.

"It's not going to be Eddie and Darryl driving in runs every day," Sharperson said. "There's got to be other guys, too."

Sharperson was one of those other guys Wednesday night in the Dodgers' 5-4 victory over the Houston Astros before 28,345 at Dodger Stadium.

With Brett Butler on second and one out in the seventh inning of a 3-3 game, Sharperson was sent up to hit for Lenny Harris. "At that point, I'm not looking for anything," Sharperson said. "It's pressure, but not that much. There's only the pressure you put on yourself."

Sharperson worked the count from Rob Mallicoat (0-1) to 2-and-2 before poking an outside pitch into short center field, driving in Butler. Sharperson took second on the throw home and moved to third when right fielder Steve Finley's throw sailed wildly past the plate.

Sharperson scored on Strawberry's third hit of the game, a chopper through the drawn-in Houston infield. That proved crucial because the Astros scored a run in the ninth off Jim Gott, a rally that was quashed when Steve Wilson got pinch-hitter Rafael Ramirez to ground into a game-ending double play.

"We rise to the occasion," Dodger starter Mike Morgan said after recording his career-high 13th victory. "This was a big win tonight. We keep coming back, and that's the sign of a good ballclub."

And a resilient ballclub. The Astros scored once in the first on two singles and a sacrifice fly and then made it 2-0 in the third on Finley's homer to right, but the Dodgers cut it to 2-1 in the fourth. Murray drew a walk, and singles by Kal Daniels and Mike Scioscia loaded the bases with one out, a promising opportunity that nearly fizzled. They mustered one run when shortstop Andujar Cedeno bobbled Alfredo Griffin's grounder.

But with the crowd groaning at every display of the Atlanta Braves' lead over the Padres at San Diego, the Dodgers rebounded to take a 3-2 lead in the fifth after two were out. Strawberry doubled down the right-field line and later scored on Murray's 19th homer of the season, a line drive just over the 360-foot sign in right.

"Players like me and Eddie and Kal have been successful late in the season through the years," Strawberry said. "You have to realize you don't win the pennant in the first half of the season. You win it in the second half and down the stretch."

Late-season heroics aren't new for Murray, who is hitting .379 (22 for 58) this month with six homers and 20 RBIs, padding his career September total to 81 homers.

"I don't know when I'll get another chance to be this close," he said of his added determination.

"We get down and we don't give up. We haven't been buried like Sunday at Atlanta (a 9-1 loss). You don't say you're out if it's 2-0, 1-0. That's not a whole lot of runs to try to make up."

The Astros made up their one-run deficit in the seventh on Jose Tolentino's pinch-hit single, but the Dodgers weren't daunted.

"We keep coming back and keep winning these cliffhangers," Manager Tommy Lasorda said. "It drives managers crazy."

At least, his players made it a happy journey. Sharperson, like his teammates, was aware the Dodgers would have fallen into second place if they had lost, but he tried to focus solely on Mallicoat in the seventh.

"I was just trying to get a hit, and he gave me a pitch that was way inside. I just fought it off," Sharperson said. "Luckily, I had enough muscle to get it over the second baseman's head. . . .

"It's going to take the whole 30 or 40 guys or whatever we have up here to win it. It's not going to be one or two guys every day."

It took three pitchers to subdue the Astros in the ninth. Gott was into his second inning of work when he gave up a single to Ken Caminiti and walked Cedeno. Roger McDowell came in and gave up a run-scoring single to pinch-hitter Casey Candaele before turning pinch-hitter Mark Davidson's grounder into a force at third. Wilson recorded his second save in two nights when Ramirez grounded to Griffin, who stepped on second and threw to first for the double play that kept the Dodgers a whisper ahead of the Braves in the West.

Morgan said the Dodgers can't concern themselves with the Braves until they meet again in a three-game series this weekend at Dodger Stadium.

"We can't worry about what they do. We've got to take care of ourselves," he said. "We have a lot of professionals here who have been through this situation and they know what to do. This is my first time in this situation, and having those guys around, with that experience, really helps."

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