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Dodger Bullpen Takes Beating From Cardinals

TIMES STAFF WRITER

These are dangerous times for the Dodger bullpen.

The starting rotation can’t seem to last more than a handful of innings. The manager is grumbling. And now opposing batters are charging the mound.

So it went Sunday as the Dodgers fell, 8-3, to the St. Louis Cardinals at Dodger Stadium, a dreary loss punctuated by Cardinal infielder Shawon Dunston going after reliever Jamie Arnold in the ninth inning.

Dunston had just been hit by a pitch, an offense he considered intentional, when he rushed a startled Arnold and precipitated a few minutes of bench-clearing push and shove.

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“I was surprised,” said Arnold, who had his head down in disgust until just before Dunston reached him. “The only reason I knew he was coming was because I heard the crowd’s reaction.”

It was that kind of day for the Dodgers (22-21), who lost for the second time in three games to the Cardinals (23-19). They stumbled before a crowd of 54,514 that helped set a three-game attendance record of 162,376 for the series.

“They kicked our butts,” Manager Davey Johnson said. “I tip my hat to them.”

Things have gotten bad enough for the Dodgers and their rotation that Johnson praised Carlos Perez, the man with the $15.5-million contract and a 1-6 record, for giving up four runs and lasting into the sixth inning.

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“That’s more innings than I’ve been getting,” Johnson said. “The bullpen just failed.”

True, Perez improved on his last start, when he left the game against the Houston Astros in the fourth inning after giving up six runs on five hits. This time he held St. Louis to a 2-1 lead through five innings.

One of those runs was unearned, coming in the third inning when Cardinal starter Darren Oliver reached third base on a line drive that skipped past Raul Mondesi and rolled all the way to the right-field fence. Oliver scored on a single by Edgar Renteria.

“Carlos pitched better,” Johnson said. “He had us in the game.”

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Things started to go south in the sixth inning when St. Louis catcher Alberto Castillo doubled to center field to begin a rally that would give the Cardinals a 4-1 lead and send Perez to the bench. The Dodgers responded in the bottom half of the inning, Eric Karros hitting a solo home run and outfielder Trenidad Hubbard driving in another run with a single up the middle. The score was 4-3.

But the Dodger cavalcade of relievers was only just beginning. First came Mike Maddux, then Pedro Borbon, Doug Bochtler and Onan Masaoka.

It was Masaoka who gave up the back-breaker, a three-run homer by Thomas Howard with two out in the seventh inning as the Cardinals widened their lead to 8-3.

After that, St. Louis was forced to dig deep into its bullpen too, but with greater success.

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So there would be no replay of Saturday night’s 10-7 victory, when the Dodgers overcame their pitching woes by way of 14 hits. This time they put together 11 hits and left 11 on base. But they never truly threatened to come back.

With the game yawning toward four hours--all that walking from the bullpen takes time--only the ninth-inning tussle remained. It started when Arnold came in and hit Joe McEwing. Two batters later, he hit Dunston.

The fighting never got much past the initial tackle, most of the players grabbing and holding. Dodger outfielder Devon White took care of Dunston, an old friend.

“I was just calming him down,” White said. “When you get hit with a 90-mile-an-hour fastball, if you feel someone’s throwing at you, you’re going to charge the mound.”

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Dunston had little to say about the incident afterward. Arnold was left with a slightly bewildered look on his face, a rather fitting expression for Dodger relievers these days.

“I didn’t go after him,” Arnold said. “He went after me.”


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