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Dodgers Hit the Road, Unsure if They’ll Be Back : Baseball: Gross pitches eight innings of 1-0 victory over Padres. Next home game is scheduled for Aug. 12.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

As a song by The Clash blared in the Dodger clubhouse Thursday morning--"Should I Stay or Should I Go?"--the players began arriving. Some showed up early, others at the appointed time, but all with the same question: Will we play or will we go?

The Dodgers came to the stadium not knowing if they were about to play in their last game, or if there would even be a game. They were packed for their coming trip, in case there was one. And while they were waiting for player representative Brett Butler to arrive and tell them the latest news on the impending players’ strike, some packed for the season, in case there wasn’t one.

“I never knew I had so many batting gloves,” pitcher Tom Candiotti said shortly before the Dodgers beat the San Diego Padres, 1-0, in front of an afternoon crowd of 45,183.

The Dodgers, who had voted unanimously the day before to move up the strike date, found out from a televised news conference two hours before the game that they would take the field. Mad as they are, union chief Donald Fehr said, the players will wait until Aug. 12 to strike, trying to settle their differences with the owners in the meantime.

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That decided, clubhouse assistant Pete Sandoval grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote on the blackboard, “Pack your bags and bats.” Later, someone had scribbled underneath, “See you next spring.”

The Dodgers left for a six-game trip after the game, possibly having played their last game at Dodger Stadium this season. After a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies and another against the Cincinnati Reds, they are scheduled to begin their next home stand on, well, Aug. 12. But for now, they are still atop the National League West, with a 2 1/2-game lead over the San Francisco Giants.

“I was thinking that we weren’t going to play this weekend, but I came today and prepared myself the way I normally do on the days I pitch,” said Gross (9-7), who didn’t appear to be the least bit distracted.

Gross pitched eight shutout innings, giving up six hits and at one point retiring 14 consecutive batters. He said he could have stayed in, but supported the decision to turn the game over to Todd Worrell in the ninth inning. Worrell retired the side in order for his ninth save.

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But it was one of those games when neither starter should have lost, Padre Andy Benes (6-13) making only one mistake in seven innings--on a pitch to Mike Piazza.

Piazza, leading off the fourth inning, sent a soaring drive over the center-field fence, hitting the ball even before the public-address announcer finished introducing him.

"(Benes) hit my bat, I guess, I don’t know,” said Piazza, who is batting .330 with 24 home runs and 89 runs batted in. “Like I have said before, Benes is one of the better pitchers in the league and we had our opportunities--with the bases loaded (in the sixth) and two outs.

“But our pitching kept us in the game. (Gross) was on today. . . . He was getting ahead of guys and getting his curveball over and spotting his pitches well inside.”

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Gross’ only jam came in the seventh inning when he loaded the bases with one out on three hits.

He induced Billy Bean to pop up to Delino DeShields, before Padre Manager Jim Riggleman pulled out the stops, sending in Tony Gwynn to pinch-hit for Archi Cianfrocco. Gwynn, who had been taking the day off, was ahead of Gross, 2 and 0, before hitting a line drive down the left-field line that sliced just foul. Gwynn then flied out to center.

“Obviously, with facing Gwynn, the situation was not too exciting, and then there was that close call down the line,” Piazza said. “Fortunately, Gross got a cut fastball down and in, and Gwynn hit it up. The guy is hitting (almost) .400, and six out of 10 times he’s going to make an out; fortunately, it was one of those times.”

Most of the players said they were surprised that the strike date wasn’t moved up, but said what had transpired would not affect the way they play the game.

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“We have a job to do,” Butler said, “and (Dodger owner) Peter O’Malley pays us a sum of money, a great deal of money, to go out and perform on the field, and we are going to be professionals and live up to that obligation and go out and play as hard as we can, like nothing has happened.”


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