Padre Rally Leaves Dodgers Flat : Baseball: San Diego scores four in the eighth for 6-5 victory that spoils L.A.'s chances of clinching division title. Mondesi suffers sprained knee.


The champagne was brought into the Dodger clubhouse in the seventh inning Friday night, the bottles sat on ice waiting to be popped, but were left unopen.

The San Diego Padres delayed the Dodgers’ celebration until at least today by pulling out a come-from-behind 6-5 victory over the Dodgers in front of a paid crowd of 25,699 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

The Dodgers, who knew that the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies had already lost, blew a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning to prevent any celebration.


Well, the Dodgers figured it, if they can wait seven years, what’s another day when they can clinch the National League West title?

The Dodgers (76-66), who lead the Colorado Rockies by one game, need to win only one of their final two games or have the Rockies lose a game to clinch a share of the division title. The Dodgers will be declared division winners in case of a tie on the basis of their series’ victory, defeating the Rockies in nine of 13 games.

The Dodgers also can clinch a wild-card berth simply by another Houston loss, but the Dodgers say a wild-card spot would be no reason to celebrate.

“The focus of this team is to win the division, not the wild card,” pitcher Tom Candiotti said. “We won’t be satisfied unless we win the division. That’s what we’re waiting for.”

Certainly, the Dodgers may have suffered worse news than simply losing their game. All-star right fielder Raul Mondesi suffered a sprained right knee in the fifth inning. He was taken to Scripps Clinic for X-rays, which were negative. His status is day-to-day.

The injury occurred in the fifth after Delino DeShields led off the with a double to left and Tim Wallach was hit by a pitch by Joey Hamilton.

Mondesi lined a single to left, scoring DeShields. He sprinted to first, and when he saw left fielder Melvin Nieves drop the ball, started to break toward second. There was one problem. Wallach, who’s playing with a torn knee ligament, still was on second.

Mondesi, realizing he had nowhere to go, suddenly stopped, and then it happened.

He felt a sharp pain shoot through his right leg and went down. Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda immediately rushed out, and Mondesi was surrounded by teammates and coaches, including Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn.

The Dodgers called for a stretcher, and he was examined by Dodger physician Frank Jobe and Padre doctor Jan Fronek at Scripps Clinic.

It appeared it would be the inning that launched the Dodgers into the playoffs. Roberto Kelly followed Mondesi’s hit with a single to left, loading the bases. Dodger pitcher Ismael Valdes then hit an easy one-hopper to third baseman Ken Caminiti for a routine double-play ball.

But instead of even tagging third base for one out, Caminiti threw the ball in the dirt to catcher Brad Ausmus. The ball bounced away, and the game suddenly was tied at 2-apiece.

Brett Butler, who so badly wants a return visit to the playoffs in what could be his final year, hit a sacrifice fly to left field for a 3-2 lead. Chad Fonville then made it 4-2 with a single past Caminiti, although Valdes was thrown out when he took too far a turn around second.

The Dodgers appeared to put the game on ice when Fonville led off the eighth inning with a bloop double that landed just inside the foul line. Mike Piazza then drove a fastball to the warning track. Center fielder Steve Finley caught the ball, and Fonville took off for third . . . and kept running.

Second baseman Jody Reed dropped Finley’s relay throw, Fonville kept running, and scored when he knocked over Ausmus at home as the ball arrived. Fonville stomped on the plate, and was mobbed by his teammates in the dugout.

The Padres, however, ruined the theatrics in the bottom of the eighth.

Reed hit a leadoff double and Tony Gwynn, who clinched his sixth batting title earlier in the night, homered, cutting the deficit to 5-4 and knocking Ismael Valdes out of the game.

Reliever Antonio Osuna got Caminiti to fly out, but he then walked Scott Livingstone and yielded a double to Mel Nieves.

Ausmus struck out and Phil Plantier was intentionally walked to load the bases. Rookie pinch-hitter Marc Newfield was next. Osuna fell behind 2-and-1, and then watched Newfield line a two-run double down the first-base line.

Gwynn also is assured of becoming the first player since Chuck Klein in 1928-1930 to bat as least .350 for three consecutive seasons.


Baseball’s owners lose again in appeals court, but an agreement with the players is no closer. C8