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Colorado Has Rocky Time of It With Piazza

TIMES STAFF WRITER

It was zany. It was comical. It was nerve-racking. It was maddening. It was invigorating.

And by the time the Dodgers’ 13-10 victory over the Colorado Rockies was complete Saturday night, the Dodgers didn’t know whether to laugh, cry, make an appointment with the town psychologist or head directly to the nearest brewery.

It was that wacky.

Dodger interim manager Bill Russell earned his first victory since taking over for hospitalized Tom Lasorda, but the way Russell figured it, he would wait a day before calling him.

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“I’m sure [Lasorda] wasn’t resting comfortably in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings,” said Russell, who was presented with the lineup card and game ball.

Said Dodger first baseman Eric Karros: “I feel sorry for him actually. Tommy’s going to get out of the hospital and [Russell’s] going to go in.”

It was such a crazy game that Dodger catcher Mike Piazza hit three home runs, tying a Los Angeles Dodger record last accomplished in 1994 by Cory Snyder. He drove in a season-high six runs. He went three for five, raising his league-leading batting average to .357.

And what did he say?

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“It was a nightmare,” Piazza said. “It seems to be the story of our season. We haven’t had too much time to enjoy anything.”

This was a game the Dodgers were winning 13-0 in the eighth inning with Ismael Valdes bidding to become the third pitcher in Coors Field history to pitch a complete-game shutout.

It ended five pitchers, 10 runs, nine hits, three homers, four walks and the tying run standing on the on-deck circle later.

The Dodgers (42-39), who ended their four-game losing streak and remained tied for first with the San Diego Padres, produced their greatest offensive game in 13 months. They amassed six home runs--their most since May 25, 1979 when they hit a franchise-record seven. They produced 13 runs and 20 hits--their most since May 6, 1995 when they played at Coors Field. They had seven players produce multiple-hit games, including Valdes. They scored as many runs in a six-inning span as they had in their previous 46 innings. And they hit 2,432 feet worth of homers.

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And yet . . .

“No, I didn’t enjoy it a bit,” said Karros, who homered in the fifth, and is batting .354 with eight homers and 19 runs batted in in Denver. “I’m glad we won. I certainly enjoyed it more than the last two.

“But anybody who said this place isn’t conducive to offense is an idiot. It’s a joke. I have a lot of respect for the Rockies’ pitchers, especially the free agents who want to pitch here.”

This will be a game remembered simply for its offensive indulgence, featuring 23 runs, 36 hits, 14 extra-base hits and nine homers. Yet, as crazy as it may sound, Karros insists the Dodgers won it with defense.

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Left fielder Todd Hollandsworth threw out Eric Young at the plate in the second, and right fielder Raul Mondesi made a brilliant running catch in the fourth to save two runs. But Karros perhaps preserved the game in the eighth with a heads-up play.

Valdes, who had not permitted a runner to second base since the fourth inning, opened the eighth by giving up a single, double and homer. Chan Ho Park came in, gave up a homer to Dante Bichette, a single to Andres Galarraga, and one out later, walked the next two batters on eight pitches. Enter Mark Guthrie, who had not given up a run in 22 2/3 innings. He gave up a walk, a two-run single and another walk. Out went Guthrie, in came Osuna.

All of a sudden, it was 13-7, the bases were loaded and the heart of the Rocky lineup was due up.

Ellis Burks hit a fly ball to Mondesi in right field. Rocky third base coach Jackie Moore told Trinidad Hubbard to stay put. He ignored him and tagged up from third and ran. Mondesi fired the ball home. But Karros saw Eric Young trying to advance from second, cut off the ball and threw to third baseman Mike Blowers for the out. The run scored, but the inning mercifully was over.

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Three-Homer Games in 1996

NATIONAL LEAGUE

* Sammy Sosa, Chicago

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June 5 at Philadelphia

* Mike Piazza, Dodgers

* June 29 at Colorado

*

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AMERICAN LEAGUE

* Dan Wilson, Seattle

April 11 at Detroit

* Cecil Fielder, Detroit

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April 15 at Toronto

* Ernie Young, Oakland

May 10 at Minnesota

* Geronimo Berroa, Oakland

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May 22 at New York

* Ken Griffey Jr., Seattle

May 24 at New York

* Cal Ripken, Baltimore

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May 28 at Seattle.

* TOM LASORDA: The Dodger manager is expected to be released from the hospital today but his return to the team is undetermined. C9


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