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Dodgers Let Bats Do Their Talking

TIMES STAFF WRITER

This time, the outburst came from an explosive offense, not an offended pitcher.

This time, the aggression was directed at the opposition, not the manager.

After enduring two ugly confrontations in his own dugout with two of his pitchers in four days, Dodger Manager Bill Russell heard only the sound of high fives and self-congratulatory cheers around him Monday night as the Dodgers, led by third baseman Todd Zeile’s two home runs, blasted the Houston Astros, 8-3, in front of a Dodger Stadium crowd of 24,585.

One night of success can’t make up for weeks of struggle and frustration, but it’s amazing how much team unity can be generated by eight runs.

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“This team’s feeling a lot of frustration,” Zeile said, “and I’m sure the pitchers are feeling a lot of frustration. They’ve been really solid all year long and haven’t really benefited from being so solid.

“I guess it remains to be seen, but my attitude right now is that it [the two outbursts by the Dodger pitchers] is probably a good thing. I think it was just guys venting some of their pent-up anger and frustration, what have you, and sometimes it’s good to air it out.”

Zeile didn’t waste any time airing it out.

He struck early, hitting his first homer of the night, with Brett Butler aboard on a walk, on an 0-and-2 pitch by Houston starter and loser Chris Holt (6-5).

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“It was a two-strike curveball,” Houston Manager Larry Dierker said, “but it’s got to be down low. It’s part of the growing process. He [Holt] is a rookie.”

It was the third game in a row in which Zeile has hit in the No. 2 position in the order, and he continues to show just how effective he can be there. Zeile batted second six times last season and hit .370 in those games.

Monday night’s offensive surge enabled Ramon Martinez to win his third consecutive decision, improving his record to 6-3. Martinez went seven innings, giving up all three runs, two of them earned. He struck out nine and walked only two.

“I was very upset with what happened [Sunday],” Martinez said, “and everything that has been happening over here, and tonight I felt like I could change the attitude of the team.”

But Martinez, whose victory tied him with Burt Hooten for eighth on the Dodgers’ all-time win list with 112, hardly cruised through the Astro lineup.

The Astros, aided by an error by Dodger second baseman Nelson Liriano, scored all their runs in the third inning. There was an RBI double by Thomas Howard and an RBI single by Bill Spiers, and the final run came home when Ricky Gutierrez’s grounder bounced off Liriano, rolling into the outfield.

Spiers finished with three singles and a walk, giving him 11 consecutive times on base, three short of the National League record held by Pedro Guerrero.

The major league record is 16, held by Ted Williams.

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Liriano, who figures to come out of the starting lineup tonight with the return of Wilton Guerrero, helped make up for his error with an RBI single in the fourth inning after Karros reached base on Craig Biggio’s error and Todd Hollandsworth walked.

Hollandsworth scored on Greg Gagne’s groundout to second, bringing home what proved to be the winning run.

The Dodgers assured themselves of a comfortable victory with a four-run seventh inning that chased Holt.

Zeile, who had hit seven solo homers in a row, hit his second two-run home run of the night, this one to left-center field. Mike Piazza followed with a double off relief pitcher Jose Lima. Eric Karros’ double brought home Piazza, and Raul Mondesi’s single scored Karros.

For Zeile, who leads the team with 12 homers, it was the seventh time in his career he has hit two in a game.

The victory brought the Dodgers back to within a game of .500 at 30-31 and enabled them to remain five games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants, who beat the Florida Marlins on Monday.

But more important over the long haul, the win seemed to relieve the tension in the Dodger clubhouse.

If only for a night.

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* RANDY HARVEY: The gospel according to Kirk Gibson says a ballclub finds itself in adversity, which means the Dodgers have been on a quest for a while. C2


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