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Dodgers Can’t Wait to Get Back in the Race

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the Dodgers’ excitement over opening a four-game, division-deciding series against the San Francisco Giants tonight, they overlooked one small detail: Before trying to play the role of spoilers, they first had to play the Chicago Cubs.

Their flat performance in a 6-1 loss Wednesday, before an announced crowd of 28,285 at Dodger Stadium, suggested that they had looked a bit too far ahead.

Pedro Astacio (14-9) gave up six hits and four earned runs over five innings and the Dodgers committed two errors in the fourth inning, when the Cubs batted around and scored four times. Sammy Sosa, the first Cub to record a 30-home run, 30-steal season, had a season-high four steals. He has 36 steals and 32 homers.

Cub starter Greg Hibbard (15-11) tripled his runs batted in total to three when he stroked a single through the right side with the bases loaded. He was credited with two RBIs, and a third run scored on a throwing error by right fielder Cory Snyder. Hibbard gave up nine hits over seven innings. Randy Myers got the final out to earn his 51st save.

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Wednesday’s game was essentially an afterthought, so keyed up are the Dodgers for facing the Giants.

The Dodgers needed no reminders of the noteworthy series the teams have played over the decades. Within recent memory--and within most players’ careers--two defeats dealt them by the Giants stand out clearly.

The last disappointment occurred in 1991, when they squandered a 9 1/2-game lead over Atlanta and were tied with the Braves as they went to San Francisco for the final three games of the season. The Giants, who made no secret of their desire to keep the Dodgers from clinching the division title at Candlestick Park, dropped them a game out of first place by winning the opener and eliminated them the next day.

“There is a little revenge involved,” said Orel Hershiser, the Dodgers’ starter Saturday. “It’s not only a chance to knock the Giants off, but a chance to get involved in the pennant race. It makes this series extra special for us. We’re going to do our best to make it tough on the Giants. I just hope when I pitch, it means an awful lot.

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“It’s not like (their 1991 loss) was a long-term memory thing. It was only a few years ago. It’s going to be awfully fresh on the nerve edges.”

No less memorable to Manager Tom Lasorda was 1982, when the Giants’ Joe Morgan hit a game-winning home run off Terry Forster in the season finale to leave the Dodgers a game behind Atlanta.

“We can’t think about those things.” Lasorda said. “I’m not going to say one way or another which team I want to win, and I told my players, if they have a preference, not to say it.

“People on the Braves are good friends of mine and people on the Giants are friends of mine. (Manager) Dusty Baker played for me and he’s a great guy but I can’t say who I want to win. . . .”

Even rookie Mike Piazza, who has no grudges against the Giants to avenge, is eagerly anticipating the series.

“As a team it’s going to be good to play games that have significant meaning in the pennant race,” he said. “I’ve been asked who I want to win, and I’m indifferent. I just want to play good baseball and I want to give them a run for the money. I want to finish strong as a team, for a good feeling going into next year.”


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