Dodgers Give Fans Nothing to Cheer About : Baseball: Los Angeles bullpen caves in again and team loses to Astros, 4-3.


The Dodgers will just not let the home portion of this awful baseball season go gently into winter.

With only three home games left they still insisted on enraging their fans and collecting enough boos to last until April.

With none out in the ninth inning Friday and the Dodgers leading the Houston Astros, 3-2, Kevin Gross allowed a leadoff infield single to Craig Biggio.

It was only the fourth hit allowed by Gross. He had thrown only 104 pitches after beginning with 4 1/3 perfect innings.

But the bullpen doors swung open. And anybody who has read box scores this season can guess what happened next.

John Candelaria and Jay Howell combined to record the Dodgers' 17th blown save in 45 opportunities as the Astros scored twice to record a 4-3 victory before 25,551 Dodger Stadium jeering fans.

With Biggio on first, Steve Finley bounced a single over Eric Karros's head and into to right field, who was immediately removed for Howell.

Mike Simms struck out, but Finley stole second. Jeff Bagwell singled to score both runners to give the Astros the victory.

"I'm glad I'm still pitching here. . . .but I can't wait until this season is over," Gross said. "Before the inning, it was decided I would come out if the Astros got a guy on base. But then on the mound, I told (pitching coach Ron Perranoski) that I felt great and that I could get the guys out.

"But they made their decision. It doesn't mean it was the wrong one, it just didn't work out."

Said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda: "Kevin had pitched a tough game and the left-hander was coming up, which is (Candelaria's) specialty."

Lenny Harris walked with two out in the ninth against Doug Jones, but Eric Karros struck out out on four pitches to end the game.

Yes, that was Karros sitting in the UCLA lecture hall Friday morning, studying economics and Turkish and Russian history.

But that was also Karros at Dodger Stadium Friday night, teaching something about hitting and fielding.

Before his last-gasp swings, Karros drove in one run, scored another and made two diving stops.

Karros admits he is mentally tired after 116 consecutive starts. But he said he will not rest until two things are completed: this awful season and his college degree.

Karros began his return to school for his final quarter on Wednesday. He will miss next week's classes as the Dodgers finish the season on the road, but then will return to finish the rest of the quarter.

By the time he is announced the winner of the Rookie of the Year in November--it should be unanimous--he should be right in the middle of mid-term exams.

"We need to get away from this season and wipe the slate clean," Karros said before the game. "The hardest part right now is going out and playing in our situation."

Not Karros. He batted .318 in September with two home runs and 14 runs-batted-in. If he continues at this pace, his last month would be his hottest.

With bases loaded in the first after two walks and a late throw by catcher Eddie Taubensee on a bunt, Karros drove a ball up the middle that was barely stabbed by shortstop Andujar Cedeno.

Lenny Harris was forced at second, but Jose Offerman scored, giving Karros 83 RBIs.

That moves him alone into second place on the Dodger rookie RBI list, 23 behind Del Bissonette, who had 106 in 1928.

Karros walked from Bowen to start the third, and scored after singles by Henry Rodriguez and Mike Scioscia. Rodriguez scored the Dodgers' third run by sneaking home while Scioscia was caught attempting to steal second.

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