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Dodgers Handle a Giant Burden

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Dodgers failed to close the gap between them and the National League West-leading San Diego Padres during a four-game weekend series.

The second-place San Francisco Giants are next on their list, and the Dodgers acknowledge that overtaking the Giants in the wild-card race won’t be easy.

But they’re optimistic about their chances after a 7-5 victory Monday night before 36,409 at Dodger Stadium.

The Dodgers staked starter Dave Mlicki (5-4) to a 4-0 lead in the first inning highlighted by a solo home run by Raul Mondesi and a two-run shot by Eric Karros.

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Mlicki pitched 6 1/3 effective innings in defeating the Giants for the second time in 10 days, and new closer Jeff Shaw earned his first save as a Dodger, and his 24th overall.

Shaw pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to nail down the victory that moved the Dodgers back to .500 at 46-46. The Dodgers cut the Giants’ lead over them in the wild-card race to 5 1/2 games, and they trail San Diego by 12 1/2 games.

On a night the Dodgers placed second baseman Eric Young on the disabled list, they also got some good news against the Giants, who have lost four consecutive games.

“These games are more important for us than [the Padres and Giants] because we’re chasing them,” Karros said. “We’re obviously in a position where we can’t waste any opportunities, especially when we’re facing them.

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“We know we’re going to have to battle to catch them, and we’re kind of in must-win situations. But we just have to believe we can get it done.”

They did in the first inning Monday.

Wilton Guerrero opened with a triple against Danny Darwin (6-6) and scored on a groundout by Juan Castro. Mondesi homered--his team-leading 20th--off the left-field foul pole.

Sheffield doubled and Karros hit his 10th homer as part of a 12-hit attack that helped give Mlicki a comfortable lead.

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And the support was appreciated, Mlicki said.

“It helps a lot when you get that many runs,” said Mlicki, who defeated the Giants in his last start. “Everybody contributed, and the guys came out and played great from the start.”

Once again, Guerrero was the catalyst.

Guerrero has played well while filling in for Young, who is sidelined because of a right quadriceps strain. Guerrero, who went one for four Monday, also tripled and scored Sunday in the first inning of the Dodgers’ 6-3 loss to the Padres, and he said his confidence is higher than it’s ever been.

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“I’m feeling good now that I’m helping the team,” said Guerrero, who robbed Bill Mueller of a hit in the seventh by stopping a ball in the hole at first and throwing to Karros for the final out of the inning.

“All I want to do is play and help the team when I can. [Team officials] have confidence in me, and that makes me feel good.”

The Giants cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-3 in the fourth on a three-run homer by Stan Javier, who hadn’t homered in his previous 207 at-bats. Javier homered after J.T. Snow walked, which upset Mlicki.

“When you get that many runs, you don’t want to walk anybody,” he said. “I walked Snow and left a pitch up, but it was a good outing for me other than that.”

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Mlicki gave up eight hits and four runs. Mlicki, who was relieved by Scott Radinsky with two out in the seventh, struck out four and walked one. He threw 86 pitches, 57 for strikes.

The Giants scored a run in the eighth against Radinsky on catcher Charles Johnson’s throwing error to cut the lead to 7-5. Enter Shaw.

Shaw pitched a scoreless ninth Friday in the Dodgers’ 6-2 victory over the Padres in his first appearance since being acquired July 4 from Cincinnati for Paul Konerko and Dennis Reyes. But Monday night’s appearance marked his first save opportunity in Dodger Blue.

“Everything has started off pretty good,” Shaw said. “I got a chance to get my feet wet [Friday], and then I got a chance for a save tonight and I converted it. It feels good.”

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For team officials as well.

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* OUT OF ACTION

The Dodgers placed second baseman Eric Young on the 15-day disabled list. C6

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