Homer-happy Dodgers show anything's possible

LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse is typically as animated as one of those wooden local radio ads that manager Grady Little does for Jiffy Lube. It's a businesslike place after victories, and so quiet after defeats you can hear the dirty laundry hit the floor.

This is the type of demeanor you come to expect when a team takes its cue from veterans such as Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra and J.D. Drew, who prefer to do their talking on the field.

The madness that enveloped the Dodgers' dressing quarters late Monday night -- so out of character for this club -- sprang directly from the bizarre sequence of events that had just unfolded. Let's put it this way: The last time Chavez Ravine got this funky, Kirk Gibson was pumping his fist as he limped around the bases after going deep against Dennis Eckersley to win Game 1 of the 1988 World Series.

The Dodgers have played themselves into the thick of the National League West race this season despite a nagging lack of power. Through the team's first 149 games, the Dodgers ranked last in the league with 131 home runs.

That all changed in a span of two innings Monday night, when they decided to go all Ryan Howard on the San Diego Padres.

Try four homers in a span of seven pitches in the ninth inning to turn a 9-5 deficit into a 9-9 tie. Three of those homers came in a span of three pitches -- two of them in two pitches thrown by San Diego closer Trevor Hoffman.

As it turns out, the long balls by Kent, Drew, Russell Martin and Marlon Anderson were just the appetizer for the main course. In the bottom of the 10th inning, Garciaparra hit a two-run homer off Rudy Seanez, and the Dodgers beat the Padres 11-10 to move back into first place in the NL West.

Considering that Randy Johnson once killed a dove with a fastball and a fly ball bounced off Jose Canseco's head and over the fence for a home run when he was a Texas Ranger, anything is possible on a baseball field. But the conclusion of this series was so stunning, so flat-out strange, the Los Angeles players had difficulty putting the impact into words.

"A lot of guys are running around, and they can't talk from screaming so hard," Drew said.

Here's the impact in a nutshell: If the Padres had won, they would have taken three of four against Los Angeles this weekend, captured the season series 14-4, carried a 1½-game lead into the final two weeks, and left behind a bunch of demoralized and tired Dodgers.

Instead, the Dodgers wake up today reinvigorated with a half-game lead in the West, and the Padres are 1½ games ahead of the Phillies in the race for the wild-card berth.

Little acknowledged before the game that Garciaparra's sore quadriceps muscle is so dicey it's a "bit of a gamble" for him to be in the lineup at all. That hardly mattered when Garciaparra hit a Seanez fastball into the left-field bleachers to send the crowd into a frenzy.

While Garciaparra savored the trip around the bases, he couldn't wait to step on home plate and share the celebration with his teammates.

"It's hard for me to really run, so I couldn't go too hard," Garciaparra said. "I just told myself, 'Make sure you hit every bag. Then touch home plate and hug the guys.'"

Seanez's presence in such a tight spot in a game of this magnitude seems puzzling on the surface, given his struggles in Boston earlier this season. After Seanez posted a 4.76 ERA in 47 appearances with the Red Sox, he was designated for assignment on Aug. 19.

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