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Dodgers 8, Pirates 2, 1st Game

August 26, 1997

PITTSBURGH (AP) _ It’s hard to believe the Pittsburgh Pirates could buy so many miracles and so much magic with just $9.4 million.

They began the season with the anticipation of being the NL’s worst team since the 1962 New York Mets. They’re finishing it like the Miracle Mets of 1969.

Do you believe in miracles? These improbable, impossible Pirates do, and they’re making believers out of the rest of the NL, too.

Low payroll, maybe. High drama, for sure.

``It was another storybook finish in a storybook season,″ Joe Randa said after the Pirates rallied with three runs in the ninth to beat Los Angeles 4-3 Monday and split their doubleheader. ``I think we’re all running out of words to describe what’s happening to us this season.″

The Dodgers had a few words to describe it, none printable. They had their relief ace, Todd Worrell, on the mound and a two-run lead against a team that had scored only one unearned run in 15 innings.

Suddenly, in only seven pitches, it was gone _ the lead, the game and their 1 1/2-game lead over San Francisco in the NL West.

Eddie Williams walked. Randa homered to center _ a two-run shot that was first since June 13. Then, on the very next pitch, Mark Smith homered to left.

Two pitches. Two homers. Too, too much.

And if Smith felt he might never hit a homer to rival his three-run shot that decided the Francisco Cordova-Ricardo Rincon no-hitter against Houston on July 12, he was wrong.

``This might have been the most exciting finish of the season _ even more exciting than the no-hitter,″ Smith said.

Even Gene Lamont, whose restrained approach seems perfect for the collection of prospects, pickups and castoffs he manages, was caught up in the excitement. The Pirates stayed three games behind Houston in the NL Central by winning their sixth in eight games and 10th in 14.

``How about that! How about that!″ Lamont said. ``We hadn’t even shaken Randa’s hand and Smith hit his.″

For the Dodgers, it was a loss that can linger insufferably for days, and it made their 8-2 romp in Game 1 seem like a distant memory.

``I’m sure this is going to linger,″ Worrell said. ``You don’t forget about a bad performance in 15 minutes.″

Dodgers manager Bill Russell was critical of Worrell (2-4), saying, ``We had it. ... But you make bad pitches, that’s what happens. You make a bad pitch and it doesn’t matter who the hitter is _ Joe Randa or whomever.″

Still, despite Worrell’s eight blown saves, Russell has no thought of looking elsewhere in save situations down the stretch. The Dodgers, who regained the NL West lead only the day before, lead the Giants by a half-game in the NL West with 30 games to play.

``What are your choices?″ Russell said. ``He’s our stopper. He’s the guy we’re going to go to, simple as that. Everyone has a role down there ... and Todd’s the guy.″

Ramon Martinez (7-3) was in the opener, winning his first official start in two months with five effective innings as the Dodgers roughed up Jason Schmidt (8-7) for eighth runs in 4 1-3 innings.

Eric Karros had a two-run single as seven of the Dodgers’ first eight batters reached in a four-run third inning. Raul Mondesi added his 26th homer, a two-run shot, in a three-run fifth.

Martinez was out with a slight tear in his right rotator cuff. He started August 20 against New York, but the game was rained out in the third with thew Mets leading 6-5.

``He (Martinez) was wild at the start and was throwing 90-91 (mph) in the first inning, but he started cranking it up to 96 in the third,″ Lamont said. ``He looked more like the Martinez we are used to seeing.″

Notes: The Pirates haven’t swept a doubleheader from the Dodgers since July 18, 1971. ... The Dodgers have won 11 of Martinez’s 16 starts. ... Martinez also started Aug. 20 at New York, but the game was rained out in the third inning with the Mets leading 6-5. ... The Dodgers are 34-17 during the second half of the season. ... Schmidt had won three in a row, but is 0-4 in six career appearances against the Dodgers. ... The Pirates are 20 games ahead of their last-place pace of a year ago. ... Until Worrell blew his eighth save in 41 opportunities, the Dodgers’ bullpen had allowed only one run in 36 2-3 innings. ... The Dodgers won five in a row until losing Game 2.

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