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Whole Team Is Day-to-Day

The Dodgers couldn’t care less how, when, where or why they get to the playoffs. They care only that they get there.

Well, they did get some good news Friday, what with the Colorado Rockies crumbling again and the Houston Astros suffering from a serious case of wild-card arrest. All this put the Dodgers one day closer to being in the playoffs.

But now some bad news: Which Dodgers will be there? Raul Mondesi took a terrible spill at first base in Friday night’s game here, leaving on a stretcher, and there also could be something wrong with Hideo Nomo’s right arm, no more to be known until Nomo pitches tonight’s game against the San Diego Padres, which could clinch the division championship.

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Even little Chad Fonville limped away at second base, giving the Dodgers a not-so-little scare. However, not only was Fonville all right, he sped all the way home from second base on a sacrifice fly and error, trying to personally run the Dodgers into the National League West championship.

Mondesi, meantime, was being treated at a nearby hospital with a sprain of his right knee. The outfielder is listed as “day to day,” at a time when Dodger days are running out.

Every player had to sweat out every pitch of Friday’s game here.

No more than a minute after Fonville flew across the plate, a score flashed on the Jack Murphy Stadium scoreboard, showing that San Francisco had taken a ninth-inning lead over Colorado. A little good luck seemed to be coming the Dodgers’ way, just when they needed some most.

Just as quickly, though, Tony Gwynn’s two-run homer propelled the Padres to a four-run eighth inning and a 6-5 victory that put the Dodger celebration on temporary hold.

“They just wanted it more than we did,” catcher Mike Piazza said. “I’ve said it before, if we can’t come down here and close this thing out ourselves, we have no business even being in the playoffs.”

“We had it in our pocket,” Manager Tom Lasorda said. “In our pocket.”

What the Dodgers dearly wanted to do was have this thing sewn up before Sunday, so Ramon Martinez could be saved to pitch Tuesday’s game against the Cincinnati Reds.

Friday was a night when all the Dodgers needed was one more lucky break to stop their worrying and start their preparation for the playoffs. With the Astros all but throwing in the towel, all the Dodgers needed do was take one more game, then rest easy and give a player or two some time off to recuperate.

For the most part, their luck has been changing for the better. Anything seems possible now. Dodgers vs. Reds. Dodgers vs. Braves. Dodgers in a World Series with the Indians . . . Red Sox . . . Yankees . . . Mariners . . . Angels? Hey, use your imagination.

On the field before the game, Fred Claire, the club’s vice president, couldn’t help but feel upbeat about the latest developments, though he understandably tossed in a disclaimer: “At this hour, we’re still a long way from celebrating anything.”

Houston sure has been a big help, however.

Blowing a 3-0 lead at Chicago, the Astros once again fell in extra innings and gave the Dodgers another nudge toward the playoffs.

Joe Amalfitano, third-base coach for the Dodgers and former manager of the Cubs, ran into Claire during the afternoon and duly reported: “Cubs lost.”

“I don’t think so,” Claire disagreed.

Sure enough, the Astros had walked in a tying run in the bottom of the ninth.

“First time Joey’s ever been wrong about a Cub game,” Claire said.

With each passing hour, the fresh scent of October was in the air. A playoff atmosphere definitely existed at Jack Murphy Stadium before the game.

By the time the happy-go-lucky Gwynn bounded from the San Diego dugout to begin batting practice, mobs of strangers in street clothes had already formed on the field, prompting Gwynn to shout: “Whoa! What is this, the World Series?”

The new playoff format might not appeal to all, but, as Claire said, “I still think it’s created a lot of excitement. Look up there at the scoreboard. Toronto is playing New York in a game that has a bearing on the pennant race. Any other year, that game wouldn’t have meant a thing. Chicago-Houston, same thing. If you ask me, everything’s a hell of a lot more exciting.”

Most exciting of all is that the Dodgers have a bearing on the pennant race. They’re still in it.


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