Karros' Homer Lifts Dodgers

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers, wounded and worried, pretty much needed a miracle to shake them from their slumber.

Eric Karros came up with one Saturday night, and the Dodgers scored a 5-4 victory.

Until shortly after 10 p.m., as a parking lot full of the usual unfaithfuls scurried home early, there wasn't an encouraging word to be said about the Dodgers.

Earlier, the team had put another outfielder, Eric Davis, on the disabled list. Later, starting pitcher Ramon Martinez struggled in his seven innings of work.

The Dodgers' place in the basement of the National League West seemed secure.

They trailed the Pittsburgh Pirates, 4-1, heading into the ninth.

They were going to lose.

It was 4-2 when Karros came to bat, runners on second and third with one out. Karros, who had lost his job at first base, had not lost confidence.

After working the count full against reliever Stan Belinda, Karros redirected a fastball into the left-field bleachers before what remained of a crowd of 41,067.

"I don't want to be too good as a pinch-hitter," a jubilant Karros said afterward, "or that's what I'll be."

For now, that's what Karros is. He had a pinch-hit double during Friday's game and has four hits in seven at-bats off the bench this season.

Belinda threw all fastballs to Karros.

"Ninety percent of what you're going to see from me are fastballs," Belinda said. "He got the bat head out and drove it. I threw it in the danger zone."

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda gave Karros some advice before he came to bat. Good thing Karros didn't listen.

"Tommy said, 'Just try to hit the ball hard, take some good cuts,' " Karros said. "Don't try to hit a home run."

Of course, Karros needed a supporting cast in this drama.

Todd Benzinger opened the ninth with a single to right against reliever Roger Mason. After he advanced to second on a wild pitch, Benzinger scored on Mike Scioscia's single to left field, cutting the Pittsburgh lead to 4-2.

That's right, Scioscia. He entered the game batting .189, but came through when it counted.

Mason then walked Dave Hansen to put the tying run on first.

Shortstop Jose Offerman then sacrificed the runners to second and third, setting the stage.

When Karros was announced as the pinch-hitter for reliever Steve Wilson, the Pirates brought in their closer, Belinda.

Turns out, Karros was the closer.

His fourth home run of the season made a winner of Wilson (1-3), who came in to relieve the injured Jim Gott in the top of the ninth. Belinda (2-1) took the loss.

Karros' home run stole a third victory from starter Vicente Palacios, who gave up six hits and one earned run in seven innings.

Palacios threw only 91 pitches but has undergone two rotator cuff operations in his career.

"There was no pitch limit," Pittsburgh Manager Jim Leyland said afterward. "But it was only his third start and I didn't want to wear him out."

Martinez labored in his seven innings, giving up four earned runs and seven hits. He struck out six and walked five while throwing 118 pitches. Thanks to Karros, Martinez (2-1) was spared the loss and still hasn't suffered a defeat since opening day.

Before the game, Dodger Vice President Fred Claire tried to keep hope alive.

"If we can scrape, claw, do whatever we have to do to stay alive, then the sun may shine a little bit in July and August," he said. "There may be a ray of hope."

Saturday, the ray was named Karros.

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