Advertisement

Candiotti Spins Into Loss, Leaves With Ailing Back : Baseball: Pitcher sent home for treatment after painful outing in Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to Reds.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tom Candiotti said he wasn’t tired, that the rigorous stretch he pitched in recently hadn’t affected him. Instead, he pointed to one knuckleball, the one that spinned instead of fluttered to Reggie Sanders in the fourth inning--one that Sanders promptly hit over the left-center field wall at Riverfront Stadium in the Dodgers’ 5-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds Tuesday night.

But after the game, just minutes after reporters left Candiotti in the Dodger clubhouse, it was announced that his back had stiffened on the mound. He is scheduled to fly back to Los Angeles today to have the left side of his upper back looked at, a move that denotes concern, since the Dodgers were returning home anyway on Thursday.

Candiotti faltered for his second consecutive start, this time giving up five runs in the fourth inning, the only inning in which the Reds scored. Sanders’ two-run homer--his 17th--put the Reds ahead, 5-1, and the final insult came when rookie pitcher Kevin Jarvis (1-1) knocked in the Reds’ fifth run with his first major league hit, a single to center.

“I just didn’t have good stuff,” Candiotti (7-7) said. “I felt in the groove early, but if I can get one ball back it would be the one Reggie hit out. When it came out of my hand I felt it spinning a lot. . . . When the ball spins, that’s about as bad as you can throw the knuckleball.”

Advertisement

Brett Butler, who was two for four in the game with two stolen bases, scored in the first inning after he singled, stole second and was brought home on a single to center by Henry Rodriguez. Butler scored again in the Dodgers’ two-run sixth inning on a single, a stolen base, an error and a wild pitch. Delino DeShields, who had walked, scored on a double by Tim Wallach, his 77th run batted in.

The Dodgers managed only five hits in the game, all against Jarvis and none against the Reds’ bullpen, who were sent in during the sixth inning and retired the final 10 Dodgers. The Dodger bullpen wasn’t as perfect, but almost. Having bailed out Candiotti in the fourth inning, Omar Daal, Roger McDowell and Rudy Seanez combined to hold the Reds to one hit the rest of the way.

“When the opportunity arises I have to take it and hope, like tonight, that I can keep us in the game,” said McDowell, who has given up one hit and no runs in his last two outings, a total of 4 2/3 innings.

Regardless of how well the bullpen does, though, McDowell knows the perception will be difficult to change. Relievers have blown 21 of 40 save opportunities this season, converting just 19.

Advertisement

"(The perception) won’t change this year, no matter what happens,” McDowell said. “Our percentage is not good and saves are what matter. We will still be the bad bullpen. We can go the next 100 innings and not give up a run and save 20 games and still it won’t change anything this year. People will still say, what happened the first five months? That’s what we have to go out there and pitch with.”

That perception was reality on Monday, when the Dodgers came back against the Colorado Rockies in the eighth inning and then lost after Todd Worrell blew a three-run lead in the ninth. A tough loss, yes, but Wallach said the team didn’t carry it into Tuesday’s game.

“If we would have gone out and made mistakes and this and that, but we got beat tonight with another guy (Jarvis) we haven’t seen before,” said Wallach, who is batting .421 with eight RBI in his last 10 games.

The victory gave the Reds a 1 1/2-game lead over Houston in the NL Central division with two games to play before Friday, the day players are expected to strike. What that means, Johnson said, nobody knows for sure.

Advertisement

The Dodgers, though, clinched the top spot Sunday in the NL West going into Friday, and Wallach said he does know what that means to him.

“Regardless of that, it’s important to win, " Wallach said, when asked if the Dodgers are letting down. “I don’t care about Friday.

Candiotti slumped for a couple games in late May, but turned things around on June 12, when he pitched a much-needed complete-game victory at Chicago. In his next eight appearances, which included seven innings of relief, Candiotti allowed only three earned runs or less and averaged seven innings each outing, an earned-run average of 2.10.

But in his last two starts, Candiotti hasn’t had it.

Advertisement

“Sometimes his knuckleball goes in circles,” said Carlos Hernandez, who started while Mike Piazza was rested. “But this time it didn’t.”


Advertisement