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It’s a Wild 9th Inning for Mondesi

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Raul Mondesi has remained typically optimistic during the Dodgers’ turbulent season, and has encouraged his teammates to do the same.

He refuses to let off-field friction affect his play, and he’s helping the Dodgers find ways to win.

Mondesi led the Dodgers with his bat and legs Tuesday night in a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 41,513 at Dodger Stadium.

He doubled with one out in the ninth against Giant reliever John Johnstone and scored the winning run on a wild pitch by All-Star closer Robb Nen with the bases loaded and Adrian Beltre at the plate.

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A throwing error by shortstop Rey Sanchez prolonged the inning that provided the second victory in the three-game series for the Dodgers. Charlie Hayes tied the score, 1-1, with a two-out, run-scoring single in the seventh after Charles Johnson gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead in the fifth with a two-out, solo home run.

The Dodgers moved a game above .500 at 47-46 and cut their deficit against the Giants to 4 1/2 games in the wild-card race.

Reliever Scott Radinsky (4-4) earned the victory by pitching two scoreless innings, and he had a career-high five strikeouts. The Giants have lost five consecutive games since the All-Star break, and they turn to former Dodger hero Orel Hershiser tonight to prevent a three-game sweep.

There are four other teams ahead of the Dodgers in the wild-card race. But Mondesi said the Dodgers can compete with anyone, and he wants them to follow his lead.

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“We can win, it’s not too late,” said Mondesi, who went three for four to raise his average to .288. “We can win a lot of games as long as we play hard every game, every inning.

“We have a good team and good players. There are a lot of ways we can win games, we just have to keep playing.”

Mondesi wouldn’t permit anything less Tuesday--especially in the ninth.

With one out, Mondesi doubled down the left-field line off the glove of diving third baseman Bill Mueller. Gary Sheffield was intentionally walked, and Nen, making his first appearance since the All-Star game in Denver on July 7, came in to face Eric Karros.

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Karros struck out swinging for the second out, and Matt Luke hit for Radinsky. Luke hit a grounder that Sanchez dropped, and his toss to second baseman Jeff Kent was too late to force Sheffield.

On a 1-and-0 count to Beltre, Nen’s pitch sailed to the right of catcher Brian Johnson, and Beltre waived Mondesi home. Mondesi sparked a celebration on the field and in the stands when he crossed the plate, and the Giants once again entered the visitors’ clubhouse disappointed.

“The ball just cut away from me,” Johnson said. “We felt like we were going to get Beltre out, but it didn’t happen.”

Giant Manager Dusty Baker said his team has been hurting itself during its losing streak.

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“Whenever we make a mistake now, it seems to cost us,” Baker said. “There’s not much else to say.”

Johnson hit a two-out home run--his 12th homer--in the fifth to stake starter Chan Ho Park to a 1-0 lead. Park had pitched well in earning victories in his last three starts.

Park had averaged seven innings in those outings and had not given up a run in 18 1/3 innings before Tuesday’s game. He was in command through the first six innings, giving up only four hits. After Giant leadoff hitter Darryl Hamilton singled in the first, the Dodgers turned their first of three double plays behind Park.

Park retired the Giants in order in the third, fourth and sixth. Moreover, he didn’t walk anyone until struggling with his control in the seventh.

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Barry Bonds walked to open the seventh and Kent also walked. With runners on first and second, J.T. Snow tried to check his swing on a 3-and-1 count, but on what would have been ball four, Snow hit a grounder to the mound.

Park fielded the grounder and threw to shortstop Juan Castro at second for one out, and Castro completed the Dodgers’ third double play by throwing to Karros at first. Bonds took third on the double play, and Stan Javier walked, chasing Park.

Antonio Osuna, who has been bumped from the closer role by Jeff Shaw, entered the game to face Hayes, who singled to center to drive in Bonds and tie the score.


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