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Real Corker for Dodgers Ends Their Losing Streak

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

First, Dodger leadoff hitter Wilton Guerrero’s bat exploded in the first inning of Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Cardinals, and he was ejected for using a doctored bat after umpires discovered it contained cork.

Then, Mike Piazza, Eric Karros and Todd Zeile hit consecutive solo home runs in the fourth inning and the Dodgers broke a four-game losing streak with a 6-1 victory before 36,035 at Busch Stadium.

“In all the time that I’ve played, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen that happen,” Zeile said of the corked-bat incident. “I’ve never used one, not even in batting practice, and I’ve never known anyone that used one in batting practice or games. It shocked me.

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“I heard somebody yelling, ‘Check the bats [after Guerrero was ejected].’ ”

Cardinal Manager Tony La Russa agreed.

“I was told there was a lot of scrambling in that [Dodger] dugout after that,” La Russa said. “I would think that they wouldn’t take a chance having [another illegal] bat the rest of the game, so I didn’t think anything of it.

“I’ve watched those guys hit balls. They’ve got legitimate power.”

Quipped Karros: “The way I’ve been swinging, I don’t know why anyone would check my bat.”

Guerrero, who leads the National League in triples and has raised his batting average 42 points, from .250 to .292, in his last 29 games after going 32 for 99 (.323), faces a league-imposed suspension after admitting he knowingly used a corked bat.

“Any time you do something wrong, the good Lord embarrasses you,” Guerrero said in apologizing. “It was the first time I used that kind of bat.”

Chris Sabo of the Cincinnati Reds was suspended for seven games last August and the Reds were fined $25,000 after he used a corked bat. Albert Belle, then with the Cleveland Indians, was suspended for seven games by the AL in 1994 for using a corked bat.

Dodger Manager Bill Russell, Piazza, Karros and the rest of the Dodgers maintain that no one else on the team uses a corked bat.

“It was the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” Piazza said. “I thought he’d be the last guy to have a corked bat. I had to walk out and see it myself. I didn’t believe it till I saw it. It’s unfortunate, because I don’t believe he’s a bad guy.

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“I’ve never used a corked bat. I don’t see what benefit it has. Obviously, it’s got to have some benefit or guys wouldn’t use it. But my bat company makes great bats and I’ve never needed one.”

There’s never a dull moment with the Dodgers, these days.

Less than 24 hours after Russell launched a tirade during a 25-minute closed-door clubhouse meeting after the Dodgers made a season-worst four errors in a 6-3 loss, they matched their run total for the last three games.

It was the first time this season the Dodgers have hit consecutive home runs and the first time since June 30, 1996, they have hit three in a row. The last time it happened was when Piazza, Karros and Raul Mondesi did it against the Colorado Rockies in Denver.

Piazza, who had three hits in four at-bats, hit a 1-and-2 pitch from Cardinal starter Alan Benes just inside the right field line for his eighth home run of the season. He had eight hits in 16 at-bats with a home run, a double, two RBIs and two runs in the four-game series.

Karros followed with a home run to left field, his eighth. The Dodgers are 22-1 when Piazza and Karros hit home runs in the same game.

Zeile drilled a 3-and-1 pitch to deep left-center for his 10th home run as the Dodgers ended an eight-game road losing streak, their longest since June 12-21, 1992.

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Zeile has seven home runs and 11 RBIs in his last 19 games after having only three home runs and 16 RBIs in his first 33 games.

Todd Hollandsworth doubled in a run with two outs off reliever John Frascatore in the eighth inning after Piazza and Karros led off with singles, and Roger Cedeno drove in two runs with a two-out single as the Dodgers broke the game open with three runs on four hits.

Dodger starter Chan Ho Park (4-2) gave up only one run on nine hits with four strikeouts and one walk in 6 2/3 innings to win for the fourth time in his last seven decisions.

* RANDY HARVEY: The Dodgers have excellent pitching, an impotent offense and a so-so defense, making them merely average. C2

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Rule 6.06

(d) “If a filled or ‘doctored’ bat is used, the player is to be called out and ejected from the game and is subject to additional penalties. Any balls hit by an illegal bat do not count. If the umpire sees the illegal bat before it is used, he issues a warning, but there is no penalty.”

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