Dodgers edge Reds in 14

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 23, 2000

The Associated Press

Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Dodgers must have enjoyed coming home.

Tuesday, May 23, 2000

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Los Angeles – The Los Angeles Dodgers must have enjoyed coming home. The Dodgers had slept in their own beds just 18 times since the start of spring training when they returned from a 12-game, four-city road trip that ended Sunday in Florida. They had less than 24 hours to prepare for the opener of a nine-game homestand.

It took 14 innings before the Dodgers could get back into their beds again Monday night. They loaded the bases in four of the last five innings before finally pulling out a controversial 4-3 victory over the Cincinnati Reds.

”This is our first game back, and hopefully we won’t have extra innings anymore,” left fielder Gary Sheffield said following the 4-hour, 35-minute game. ”We were sitting in a plane for 8 1/2 hours, so 14 innings isn’t that bad.”

Sheffield was grinning in the clubhouse despite being on crutches. He sprained his right ankle in the 11th inning while trying to break up a double play with a hard slide into second baseman Pokey Reese.

Sheffield was carried off the field by teammates Kevin Brown and Dave Hansen, along with a couple of trainers.

”I was just trying to break up the double play and not think about the ankle in that situation,” said Sheffield, who was to have X-rays taken today and expects to miss his first game of the season tonight.

”I don’t know how bad it is right now, but I got the feeling back in it. I didn’t at the time, so they didn’t want me to put any pressure on it.”

Second-base umpire Wally Bell called Sheffield out for interference on the play – resulting in an inning-ending double play.

”I thought it was a legal slide,” Sheffield said.

He wasn’t the only one who had a problem with an umpire’s call. Reds catcher Eddie Taubensee was incredulous after the game because plate umpire Dan Iassogna ruled that Taubensee failed to touch home plate on a force play in the 14th.

With the bases loaded, drawn-in shortstop Barry Larkin fielded a grounder by Mark Grudzielanek and Taubensee caught the high throw. Television replays appeared to show that Taubensee’s left foot touched the plate before Todd Hundley, who had drawn a leadoff walk from Manny Aybar (0-2), slid in.

”I turned around and stepped on it with my foot right in the middle of the plate for the forceout. It was clear as day,” Taubensee insisted. ”It wasn’t like I barely grazed it. I stepped right in the middle of it. It was unfortunate that he missed it.”

Los Angeles began a stretch in which its plays 20 of 26 games at Dodger Stadium – and three of those other six just 35 miles down the freeway in Anaheim.

Hundley was one of many Dodgers happy to make it home – in more ways than one.

”We were on the road for so long and we’ve all missed being home,” he said. ”It’s more laid back here and there’s more of the atmosphere that we like. You don’t have 30,000 fans chanting ‘Beat LA! Beat LA!’ in one-run ballgames.”

Matt Herges (3-0) earned the victory with two innings of one-hit relief after starter Darren Dreifort surrendered a leadoff homer by pinch-hitter Michael Tucker that tied the score at 2 in the eighth.

”This was a great start for us,” said Dreifort, who allowed two runs and six hits in eight innings. ”If we keep battling like we did tonight, we’ll win a lot of ballgames.”

<B>Notes:<B> Alex Ochoa singled with two outs in the Reds’ 11th off Jeff Shaw and scored when Dante Bichette lined a double on one hop to the bullpen gate in left field. … Shawn Green homered in the first inning and Eric Karros led off the second with his 13th of the season. Those were the Dodgers’ only hits in the first five innings against Denny Neagle, who had surrendered only two home runs in 38 innings over his previous six starts. … Neagle is 10-0 with seven no-decisions since Aug. 30, 1999. He gave up two runs and four hits in seven innings against a lineup that scored 12 runs in each of its previous two games. … Tucker’s pinch-hit homer was the third of his career, and his first since May 12, 1999, against Milwaukee’s Bob Wickman. … Ken Griffey Jr. struck out twice, giving him six strikeouts in his first nine career at-bats against Dreifort.