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Dodgers Left Baffled Again

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers contort their faces grossly, searching desperately for the proper words to describe their feelings, but nothing makes sense.

They want to feel rage and anger, but all they feel is absolute helplessness, dread and frustration.

Sure, the Dodgers knew they would go through rough stretches, even losing occasional games to the lowly Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-3, Wednesday night before a paid crowd of 32,161 atDodger Stadium.

But no one ever imagined something like this happening.

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No one could have dreamed that they would lose to a kid by the name of Marc Wilkins. This is a guy who has spent his career in the minors. He wasn’t even invited to spring training. Why, until three weeks ago, he was pitching at double-A Carolina.

Wilkins is also the same guy who pitched five shutout innings, yielding only two hits, and winning his first major league game, stunning his own teammates as well as the Dodgers.

“We know we’re a better team than this,” Dodger second baseman Delino DeShields said. “Frustrating isn’t the word for it. I don’t know what is, but this is more than frustrating.”

The Dodgers, losing their second game in a row to the Pirates, are facing the cruel reality that they have muddled along at .500 since winning the first game of the season. The division-leading San Diego Padres won for the first time in four games, extending their lead to six games over the Dodgers.

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“It’d be great if we could close the gap,” said first baseman Eric Karros, who homered in the seventh inning to snap the Dodgers’ scoreless streak at 19 innings, “but the bottom line is that we’re not going to win or lose this thing in June. There’s a lot of time.”

Yet, Manager Tom Lasorda hardly is expected to sit still. Pedro Astacio, who suffered the worst performance by a Dodger starter this season--three innings, eight hits and six earned runs--could find himself in the bullpen and replaced by Chan Ho Park. Park pitched four hitless innings in relief, extending his scoreless streak to 10 innings, and a decision will be made made in a few days whether a change will be made.

Of course, shuffling the rotation would do nothing for the Dodgers’ hitting ineptitude.

The Dodgers originally were supposed to face all-star left-handed starter Denny Neagle, but while taking a shower Wednesday morning, Neagle was overcome by back spasms. It was a pain that occurred twice while in college and once in triple A, so he was quite aware of what was happening.

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The Pirates suddenly were forced to scramble. They needed someone to start. Anyone to start. Pirate Manager Jim Leyland turned to Wilkins, making his first major league start.

Good luck, kid. See ya back in the bullpen in a couple of innings.

The Dodgers, who originally had Chad Fonville at second base and Billy Ashley in left field, shuffled their lineup and went back to DeShields and left fielder Todd Hollandsworth.

Surely, if there ever was going to be a night the Dodgers would bust out of their hitting slump, it would be this game.

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The Dodgers made the kid look like Bob Gibson. The game was over by the fourth inning.

The Pirates had a 7-0 lead by then, producing 10 hits, including Al Martin’s two-run homer and Wilkin’s first career hit and RBI.

Oh, and the Dodgers?

They managed a single by Raul Mondesi, who wound up matching his career high with four hits. That was it. Fed up, the crowd finally started booing.

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Astacio (3-4), who has struggled in two of his last three starts, provided Wilkins with plenty of confidence and comfort, unraveling in the third.

He gave up three runs in the inning and another three in the fourth when he was pulled for reliever Joey Eischen.


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