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Dodgers Get Too Little Too Late : Baseball: They rally from a 5-1 deficit in eighth and ninth innings but the Padres hold on, 5-4.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There were interesting moments in the Dodgers’ 5-4 loss to the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium on Monday night--the five-man infield, Mike Piazza’s bullet home run, and, perhaps most impressive, a towering home run by Raul Mondesi in the ninth inning that landed deep in the left field pavilion before 39,244.

But almost was the Dodgers’ theme in this game, mainly because of Padre starter Joey Hamilton (8-5), who held the Dodgers to one run before departing in the eighth inning in the midst of a two-run rally. Trevor Hoffman pitched the rest of the way and earned his 16th save.

“We came back pretty good,” Piazza said of the Dodgers’ rallying from a 5-1 deficit. “I think Orel (Hershiser) would be the first to tell you he didn’t have his best stuff, but you have to give the Padres credit . . . they are a young, aggressive team, but we tried to come back and kept battling.”

The best news for the Dodgers was that the San Francisco Giants also lost, allowing the Dodgers to maintain a one-game lead in the National League West, a position they have held for the last 71 days. Other good news was a strong effort from the bullpen, which relieved Hershiser (5-6) after the sixth inning and held the Padres to two hits the rest of the way.

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Hershiser, making his second start since being sidelined for 10 days because of a strained left side, was in jams in all but one inning, leaving with the score, 5-1, and runners on first and second and none out. Jim Gott relieved Hershiser, who gave up 11 hits, and retired the next three batters in order. Rudy Seanez held the Padres to two hits during the final two innings.

“My side is fine,” Hershiser said. “I made some bad pitches in tough situations and location was a problem tonight.”

Trailing by four runs, the Dodgers knocked Hamilton out of the game after they led off the inning with three consecutive singles and Brett Butler scored from third base on a bouncer up the middle by Piazza, who was three for four in the game and knocked in two runs.

Hoffman relieved Hamilton, and, after striking out Tim Wallach, gave up a towering sacrifice fly to Eric Karros that Phil Plantier caught at the wall in left field, scoring Delino DeShields. Mondesi led off the ninth inning with his 16th homer of the season, but Hoffman retired the next three batters.

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Hamilton, who was called up from the Padres’ triple-A club May 24, is the top winner on the Padre staff and the only starter to have a winning record.

“I just tried to get ahead in the count so I could throw the strikes I wanted,” Hamilton said. “We are just trying to win ballgames, not play the role of the spoiler.”

Piazza’s homer in the fourth inning was a line drive that cleared the wall in the corner of the right field pavilion. It was Piazza’s 23rd home run this season.

With the Padres ahead, 3-1, in the fifth, the Dodgers stranded runners on first and third when Butler’s attempted bunt down the third base line with two out went back to Hamilton instead. He threw to first to end the inning.

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Butler, trying to bunt toward third with third baseman Craig Shipley playing him deep, appeared disgruntled when it didn’t work out, especially when the run would have been a give-away.

Mondesi had reached first when shortstop Luis Lopez made a wide throw to first on a routine grounder. With two out, Hershiser hit a 2-and-2 pitch up the middle for a single, moving Mondesi to third. But Butler’s bunt was a bust.

Meanwhile, Hershiser wasn’t having as easy a time as Hamilton. After taking a 1-0 lead in the first inning, the Padres scored again in the third when Eddie Williams drew a two-out walk and moved to second on a wild pitch. Williams scored on a ground ball single by Craig Shipley that Rafael Bournigal got to, but it got away.

The Padres added two runs in the sixth, despite the Dodgers employing a five-man infield at one point. After Luis Lopez doubled and scored on another double by Brad Ausmus, the Dodgers brought in Henry Rodriguez from left field for a five-man infield for the expected bunt by Hamilton. Hershiser easily struck out Hamilton, but the Padres eventually scored when Hershiser fielded a comebacker by Roberts and threw wide to Karros, moving Lopez to third. Lopez scored on groundout by Derek Bell.

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“I was just mad that I didn’t get the bunt,” Butler said. “You can write it was the turning point in the game . . . I take responsibility.”


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