Harris' Dash Sets Up Dodgers for a Victory

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was more than just a victory by the Dodgers over the St. Louis Cardinals, it was a lesson in baseball reality from the team that has been forced to deal with it more than any other.

Box scores will show that the Dodgers' 9-2 victory was the result of two swings by a pair of Dodger first basemen, who accounted for two home runs and seven runs batted in.

But the Dodgers know the difference.

They know that the game was won with a 90-foot dash.

The hustle came from Lenny Harris, who beat out a force play at second base with two out in the third inning even though the routine grounder was hit to shortstop Ozzie Smith.

That loaded the bases for Todd Benzinger, who, six pitches later, hit the fifth grand slam of his career.

Six innings after that, Eric Karros added a three-run homer to complete the scoring for Tom Candiotti, who became the Dodgers' first five-game winner, before 28,165 at Busch Stadium.

In winning their fourth consecutive three-game series after losing the first game of that series, the Dodgers again understood the reality of life without their two power hitters--Eric Davis and Darryl Strawberry.

They will not win many games with power if it is not combined with perseverance.

Said Benzinger: "I was thinking about Lenny when I was rounding the bases."

Said Harris: "When I got to the dugout, you would have thought I hit the home run."

Brett Butler, who was on second base when Karros hit the grounder that Harris outran, described the play in three words.

"Junkyard Dodger Dogs," he said. "That is us. That is what we have to be. That is what Lenny was tonight."

The Dodgers did not look as if they were headed for their eighth victory in 11 games after the Cardinals, who had never played against Candiotti before, scored in the first inning.

Jose DeLeon, who held the Dodgers to two earned runs in three starts covering 19 1/3 innings last season, was on the mound for the Cardinals.

But Candiotti started the third inning with a grounder that bounced off DeLeon's glove and rolled slowly toward shortstop. He beat Smith's throw to first, then was forced at second on Butler's bunt.

Harris looped a single to center, moving Butler to second. After Kal Daniels struck out, Karros hit his grounder to Smith for what appeared to be the third out.

"I saw it out of the corner of my eye as I ran to third and I thought, 'Routine flip to second, see ya later,' " Butler said.

But he, like Smith, never saw the tremendous jump by Harris, who simply outran Smith's throw to the base.

"I was anticipating the hit, I got a good jump. . . . Then when I saw it hit, I knew I had a chance," said Harris, who slid hard into second.

When he heard umpire Frank Pulli shout "Safe," he jumped into the air and gave his own safe sign.

"I thought, Yeah ," Harris said. "I know when I'm in there, this is what I have to do."

Some one should have figured Benzinger was due for a grand slam. He hits those better than he hits regular home runs.

Before that at-bat, in 84 at-bats with the bases loaded, Benzinger had four home runs, one per 21 at-bats. In all other situations, he had one home run every 50 at-bats.

"Just another stupid stat in a world of stupid stats," Benzinger said.

Not so stupid is the .319 batting average and five home runs with 20 RBIs contributed by Benzinger, Karros and Kal Daniels since the three first basemen were forced into the lineup at the same time five games ago because of the injury to Davis.

"I know I can't expect to play the rest of the year, or even the rest of this week," Benzinger said. "Right now I'm just playing with the feeling like, 'See, I can do the job.' "

Karros said his situation was even more serious.

"It's not just the bench for me, it extends beyond the bench," he said, referring to worries over a demotion to triple-A Albuquerque when the team is at full strength. "I have to keep proving myself every day because I know that there are three guys on the disabled list and when they come back, three guys have to go."

Pitching like a man with job security, Candiotti gave up four hits and two runs in eight innings with only four of 32 batters hitting the ball out of the infield.

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