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Dodgers Stumble and Miss Opportunity to Extend Lead

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On Tuesday night the Dodgers entered Wrigley Field with a 1½ game lead over the San Diego Padres in the National League West Division. With 19 games left in the season, they are firmly in the drivers seat -- masters of their own destiny.

The Chicago Cubs, on the other hand, are already thinking about the off-season. They are in last place with the worst record in the National League; their only remaining role is as playoff-spoiler. The Cubs will play the Dodgers, Reds and Phillies over the next 13 games.

This evening's game started ominous enough. The skies were gray as rain loomed on the horizon; a storme had settled over Illinois. Throughout the early part of the game it would sprinkle and rain from time to time. The Cubs responded by committing 4 errors in the first 3 innings, and the Dodgers marched into a big lead, 7-0.

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Unfortunately, this laugher of a game would change as the weather changed. The clouds opened up and rains disappeared. Before long the evening had turned into a beautiful serene summer night without a cloud in the sky. The Cubs responded by pounding out 10 hits to tie the game at 7-7 by the 7th inning. The Dodgers had committed an error and had numerous other defensive miscues. A comedy of errors had developed into a nightmare.

The Dodgers had now given up a seven-run lead, with a playoff spot still not assured, to a last-place team. Thoughts of extending their lead in the division soon vanished. The Cubs would trade another run with the Dodger as they enter extra innings with the score tied 8 to 8.

In the 11th inning, former Dodger Cesar Izturis came up to the plate with the chance to win the game. He had been a part of the trade that brought Greg Maddux to the Dodgers just a few weeks earlier. Cesar hit a fastball up the middle past the pitcher's mound into centerfield. Kenny Lofton fired the ball towards the plate, but pinch runner Juan Mateo, a rookie starting pitcher, had already scored the winning run. Cesar pumped his fist and the Cubs won the game 9 to 8.

This was a tough loss on a night when the Padres would lose to the Reds. Another opportunity lost in a game that should have been won. The Dodgers perilously cling to a 1½ game lead.

AP Photo by Julio Cortez