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Dodgers’ Sweep Is Louder Than Words

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers didn’t make bold statements or predictions about victories to come.

They didn’t celebrate or shout, and they tempered their comments because, at this point, saying too much would have been foolish.

But the mood in the clubhouse was different after a 4-1 victory Thursday night over the Texas Rangers that completed a three-game sweep.

And that much the Dodgers did say.

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“What we’re seeing now is what we hoped for,” Manager Glenn Hoffman said. “We came in here against a really good team and we swept them in their place, and we saw a lot of positive signs over the last three games.

“We’re still the team doing the chasing, we’re still the guys behind, so we have our work ahead of us. But this isn’t a bad place to start.”

Dodger starter Chan Ho Park (7-5) was outstanding for 8 1/3 innings and catcher Charles Johnson staked his battery mate to a 3-0 lead in the second with a three-run home run--his 11th homer.

Scott Radinsky pitched the final two-thirds of an inning to earn his 12th save, but his first save since June 3. That completed a disappointing night for a crowd of 38,514 at The Ballpark in Arlington.

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The Dodgers’ first road sweep of the season moved them back to .500 at 42-42. And they moved within 11 1/2 games of the National League West-leading San Diego Padres, picking up two games on San Diego during the series.

They begin a key three-game series with the San Francisco Giants--whom they trail by seven games in the National League wild-card race--at 3Com Park tonight, and third baseman Bobby Bonilla is expected to be activated from the 15-day disabled list. The All-Star break starts Monday, and the Dodgers’ outlook is improving daily.

“With everything that was going on--guys coming in and out, the injuries, the firings, everything--it was hard to focus on baseball,” said right fielder Gary Sheffield, the Dodgers’ lone representative in Tuesday’s All-Star game at Coors Field in Denver.

“But now, we’re getting Bobby Bo’s left-handed bat back in the lineup, and we know who’s in charge now. [Hoffman] is getting a lot of guys to contribute, and it just seems like we’re focusing on baseball more again.”

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That was consensus.

“Before when we won, it was like, ‘OK, good, we didn’t lose,’ ” rookie Paul Konerko said. “Now, it’s like, ‘OK, we’re taking care of business.’ We’re not looking at victories like surprises, we’re looking at it like this is what we should be doing.”

Park hasn’t done everything the Dodgers hoped he would so far, but he was impressive Thursday night.

The right-hander didn’t give up an earned run. The Rangers scored their only run in the second on a balk by Park, which cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1, after rookie third baseman Adrian Beltre’s fielding error.

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Park gave up seven hits, struck out four and walked two while throwing 118 pitches, 70 for strikes. His performance was the Dodgers’ third good outing by a starting pitcher in the series.

“I watched the last two games, and it was really good for me, because I got a few ideas on how to pitch to them,” Park said of the strong starts by Darren Dreifort and Dennis Reyes.

The Rangers stranded runners at second and third in the second after the balk. From that point, Park took control.

“I have trouble with men on base sometimes because I’m thinking too negatively,” Park said. “Today, I was thinking more positive things. It allowed me to keep my confidence up.”

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Johnson’s blast to left field in the second also helped. It came on a 2-and-2 count against Ranger starter Darren Oliver (4-6), and ended a streak of 87 at-bats by Johnson without a homer.

“That was a good start,” said center fielder Raul Mondesi, who scored the Dodgers’ final run on a sacrifice fly by Konerko in the fifth inning. "[Johnson] had a big hit, and then we [kept] pushing.

“That’s the way we need to play baseball, and that’s how we can win games. We’ve got many games left, and it isn’t over yet.

“Anything can happen.”

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The Dodgers understand that better than most.

* DODGERS REPORT, C14


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