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Dodgers Find Hope in Comeback Spirit

Times Staff Writer

There is no bigger contrast in sports than the difference between a winning and a losing locker room. The winners gather around the postgame spread on the table, taking huge portions, laughing, singing in the shower, welcoming the media to gather around at their locker stalls.

There was no doubt the Dodger clubhouse at Busch Stadium was that of the losing team Thursday night. The silence was broken only by the sound of shoes being banging together by clubhouse boys to dislodge the dirt caked on the cleats. The postgame meal table went largely ignored. Whether they were speaking to one another or to the media, the players spoke in hushed tones.

Yet despite the dire circumstances, down 2-0 to the St. Louis Cardinals in a best-of-five division series after losing 8-3, there was no apparent resignation in the air.

The Dodgers take heart from the fact they fashioned 53 come-from-behind victories this season. They find encouragement from knowing that they were swept in a three-game series at Busch Stadium in early September, yet came back a week later to win two of three from the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.

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And most of all, they pumped themselves with the knowledge that they will be returning home for Game 3 on Saturday, and Game 4 on Sunday, if necessary.

“There is not going to be a lot of red this weekend,” said right-hander Jose Lima, referring to the Cardinals’ primary color. “There is going to be a lot of blue.”

It figured Lima would be the most vocal of the Dodgers on Thursday night. That has been the case all season. The pitcher would be crouched on the steps of the dugout during rallies, slipping easily into the role of cheerleader. And he would often be the first one out of the dugout to greet a Dodger who had gotten a big hit or scored a crucial run.

If the Dodgers are to come back and make this a competitive series after all, Lima figures to have a bigger role than just cheerleader. He will be the starting pitcher Saturday.

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“I’m there,” said Lima. “And if we force [a fifth game] Monday, I will offer to pitch an inning. I will ask for the ball if I have to.”

Said catcher David Ross, “We know we can beat these guys. They are not too good for us. Anybody who thinks that they are ought to pack their bags and go home. They shouldn’t be in this locker room.”

If there were common regrets among the Dodgers on Thursday night, it was that they had allowed the bottom of the Cardinal lineup to hammer them, and that the Dodgers once again, as was the case in Game 1 on Tuesday, had failed to shut down St. Louis when there were two out.

Between them, No. 7 hitter Reggie Sanders and No. 8 batter Mike Matheny went five for six, Matheny driving in four runs.

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“On paper, Mike Matheny is not the guy who should beat us,” Ross said.

“If they don’t score all those runs,” said Dodger reliever Eric Gagne, “we win easy.”

Dodger first base coach John Shelby was quick to give the Cardinals, a team that won 105 regular-season games, a lot of credit.

“They didn’t win that many games by playing nobody,” he said. “But while I know that a lot of people think we are finished, we are not.”

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Although Shelby may have been repeating what so many others in the locker room were saying, the Dodgers can take special solace from his words. Thursday’s loss was the Dodgers’ eighth straight in the postseason. They haven’t won in the playoffs since the 1988 Dodgers won a World Series championship. Shelby was a member of that club, a club also made a postseason underdog.

“There’s still a lot of energy on this team,” said outfielder Jayson Werth, “both in the clubhouse and the dugout. The light’s not out yet.”


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