Dreifort Allows One to Slip Away : Dodgers: Reliever gives up three consecutive hits in ninth and 6-4 lead turns into a 7-6 loss to Rockies.


The Dodgers have vowed to make games interesting this season, and they kept that pledge Tuesday night, this time blowing a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth inning and losing, 7-6, to the Colorado Rockies at Mile High Stadium.

The loss stopped the Dodgers' winning streak at seven, turned a blissful clubhouse into an angry one and allowed the San Francisco Giants to tie them for first place in the National League West.

"I'm just mad; we should have won this game tonight," said Brett Butler, who was three for five, scored a run and drove in another.

"I think you get more frustrated because of the mistakes than anything else. We have done well lately (in that area) but we made some mistakes early tonight, then we came back and went ahead and said, we're OK. But it got to us in the ninth."

Ahead, 6-4, after another solid start by Pedro Astacio, Darren Dreifort was brought in topitch the ninth. Dreifort, who had worked the final inning in Monday night's 9-2 Dodger blowout, gave up three consecutive hits.

The Rockies made it 6-5 when pinch hitter Mike Kingery doubled and Howard Johnson singled him in. Walt Weiss followed with a grounder up the middle before Dreifort was relieved by Jim Gott.

Dreifort, who has pitched the most innings of any Dodger reliever (23), was used sparingly during the recent home-stand, as were the team's other relievers, because of lengthy outings by the starters.

Manager Tom Lasorda said he brought Dreifort into Monday's night's blowout to close the game.

"He's the closer, and we still have to get them out," Lasorda said. "This is different than college. He can pitch one inning and come back the next night."

But Dreifort, who retired three of four batters the previous night, couldn't do it again Tuesday.

"I come in and expect to do the job, and I just didn't do it," said Dreifort, who is 0-3 with five saves and a 4.30 earned-run average.

"Who knows (about pitching back-to-back)? I felt fine when I went out there so it's not a real good excuse."

With runners on first and second and no outs, Joe Girardi laid down a perfect bunt to advance the runners. Dante Bichette hit a sharp grounder that Tim Wallach back-handed and the third baseman threw to the plate to get Johnson. But Johnson slid around the tag to tie the score at 6-6.

Andres Galarraga, whose home run in the third inning had tied the score at 4-4, hit a line drive off Gott to center field, scoring Weiss for the winning run.

"Those are the things you hate about being in the bullpen, you walk that fine line, " said Gott, who was charged with none of the runs but suffered his third blown save.

Fielding blunders early were costly to both teams, who each scored three runs in the first inning. A double by Henry Rodriguez scored Butler and Wallach before Rodriguez scored on a bad relay throw to the plate by Weiss. But the Dodgers countered with generosity in the bottom of the inning, when all three of the Rockies runs were unearned due to two errors on a routine grounder by Cory Snyder.

Snyder was a last-minute replacement at shortstop for Jose Offerman, who strained his back during batting practice. He is the only player on the Dodger bench who can replace Offerman at shortstop. Lasorda is always looking for a way to put Snyder in the starting lineup.

In Snyder's 13 starts this season, he is batting .432 (19 for 44), with six home runs, 12 runs scored, 16 RBI and two doubles. And after he bobbled Galarraga's routine grounder and then overthrew first base, he came back in the second inning and homered to put the Dodgers ahead, 4-3.

Galarraga's 14th homer in the third tied the score again, before Eric Karros hit his fifth homer in the fourth inning to put the Dodgers ahead, 5-4. Butler's double in the seventh inning scored Snyder.

In his last 24 games, Butler is batting .382, with 23 walks and 23 runs scored. Still in the leadoff role in place of DeShields, Butler has reached base with a hit or a walk in 37 of 39 games. He has gone five for eight with two walks in the two-game series, reaching base eight of 11 times.

"I'm flat out mad," said Butler, who is batting .341. "The guys who are mad, this will drive them harder."

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