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Cranking out the hits in LA

Page 2 of 4 -- The Dodgers' battles with Bonds have spiced up one of the game's great rivalries. Bonds wore out the Dodgers last weekend, with four home runs and eight RBIs, including a four-hit game (two home runs). One of his home runs came on a 100-mile-an-hour fastball from ace closer Eric Gagne, who afterward called the confrontation with Bonds one of the greatest moments of his career.

But on Friday night, the Dodgers walked Bonds intentionally four times, a career high. One of those walks was issued by Gagne, who put Bonds on with two outs and nobody on in the ninth.

Snakebitten Shea Hillenbrand, historically a fast starter for the Red Sox (.333 through April last season, .341 in April 2002), is off to a dreadful start in his first full season for Arizona. Hillenbrand came into the weekend batting .178 (8 for 45) in 14 games, and was 0 for 11 against lefthanders. He was benched in favor of rookie Chad Tracy, who had four hits in his first big-league start Thursday. Hillenbrand isn't the only D-Back slumping. Newly acquired slugger Richie Sexson had five home runs but was batting just .197, Steve Finley was at .190, and Robbie Alomar was at .222 with just two extra-base hits before he fractured his hand. Alomar, who turned 36 Thursday, was once a lock for Cooperstown and still will get serious consideration; he's a 12-time All-Star and a 10-time Gold Glover. But his dropoff after the 2001 season was shocking. Through 2001, he hit .307 with a .378 on-base percentage; since then, he has hit .261 in 302 games with a .332 on-base percentage and only intermittently showed great leather . . . And nothing will make Diamondbacks manager Bob Brenly age faster than watching Matt Mantei, his closer, give up three ninth-inning home runs in the span of 12 days. Two were game-deciders, the other a tying blast . . . Orioles manager Lee Mazzilli, emulating Joe Torre in New York (and Jimy Williams when he was in Boston), insists that anyone listening to music in the clubhouse before a game has to use headphones. Call me old-fashioned, but it is jarring to walk through the Sox clubhouse before a game and listen to the vilest lyrics imaginable when rap is the music of choice, which is frequently. It's a little surprising that some player hasn't made an issue of it . . . In an extraordinary postmortem by the standards of most players, but par for the course for him, Curt Schilling paid a middle-of-the-night visit to the Sons of Sam Horn website after losing in Toronto and gave a virtual blow-by-blow description of what took place. He said that if Terry Francona was going to take him out, it would have to have been after the seventh inning, and he reiterated his contention that he is here to win games in the late innings, not to turn them over to the pen . . . Dave Barrett, brother of Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, tells of watching his brother's big-league debut, in which he faced Schilling. "Schilling went nine innings and in the ninth, he threw three pitches to Michael, who looked like he missed all three," Barrett told Melissa Isaacson of the Chicago Tribune. "His last pitch of the game was 98 m.p.h. Afterward, Michael says to my wife and me, `Wow, did you guys see that last at-bat? I got a piece of that ball. I was on that guy.' "   Continued...

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