Knocked for a loop

  • KIRBY ARNOLD / Herald Writer
  • Friday, July 7, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

By KIRBY ARNOLD

Herald Writer

SEATTLE – At 10 minutes until 9 Friday night, winning didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Neither did Freddy Garcia’s impressive return from the disabled list or Rickey Henderson’s historic trot to first base or a game that became an epic battle of big defensive plays, blown opportunities and tense moments right up to the final pitch.

The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Seattle Mariners 3-2 on Eric Karros’ home run in the 11th inning, ending a night when the final result was meaningless compared with the fear over the health of the Mariners’ superstar shortstop.

At 8:50 p.m., Alex Rodriguez lay near second base and 45,206 at Safeco Field fell as still as his motionless body.

Rodriguez had crashed grotesquely into Dodgers shortstop Alex Cora while trying to break up a double play in the fifth inning, suffering a concussion that landed him in Providence Hospital in Seattle overnight. Rodriguez underwent a neurological exam Friday night, will have another before doctors consider releasing him today, and his status for Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Atlanta is as foggy as his thoughts were after the collision.

"I’m not going to speculate," head trainer Rick Griffin said of the All-Star possibility. "Depending on what the neurological exam shows, we’ll have to see how Alex feels. When you see the replay, there’s some additional things we’ve got to be concerned about. He landed funny on his knee, and we’re also concerned about his neck; he’s going to have some stiffness in his neck. All those things will have to be taken into account, and there’s no way to speculate what he’s going to be able to do the next 24 to 48 hours."

Cora, running full speed to the bag after fielding Edgar Martinez’s grounder, had tried to leap over Rodriguez as he made the throw to first. Rodriguez, running from first, didn’t back off, either, and he slid high in an effort to upset Cora. They met with thundering force, like a linebacker leveling a wide receiver on a pass over the middle.

Rodriguez’s neck and head recoiled awkwardly and, already unconscious, he careened beyond the bag. As his throw reached first baseman Eric Karros to complete the double play, Cora tumbled wildly another 15 feet before he came to a painful stop.

Stan Javier, who had run from second to third on the play, raced to Rodriguez’s side and immediately waived for help from the dugout. Rodriguez lay on his side, his arms folded near his chest, his mouth open, eyes shut.

"He was out," Javier said. "I looked at him and he didn’t move."

After 10 minutes, he stood, and the crowd exhaled for the first time.

Then, with Griffin on his right and assistant trainer Tom Newberg on his left, Rodriguez made a slow, wobbly walk to the dugout, all the while answering what day it was, what his name is, and how many fingers he could see.

"He was saying some funny things," Griffin said. "He was talking about high school football and how he wanted to go back out there. He wanted to run a couple of sprints to show he was OK."

Then the game went on, and on, and on.

Garcia finished his impressive six innings of work, having allowed four hits and two first-inning runs in his first game since going on the disabled list April 22 because of a stress fracture in his right leg. Garcia struck out six and walked five (one intentionally), and found his rhythm as the game went on in a 115-pitch outing. He retired the last nine hitters he faced.

Against Dodgers junk-ball specialist Carlos Perez, the Mariners did little offensively until the fifth.

Carlos Guillen lined the first of his two hits for a one-out single; Henderson walked for the 2,020th time in his career, pushing him past Ted Williams and into second place on baseball’s all-time list, 42 walks behind Babe Ruth; Javier singled to load the bases; and Rodriguez walked to force in a run and make it a 2-1 game with Martinez stepping into the box.

Perez got Martinez into a two-strike hole, then served up the pitch that changed the mood of the whole night.

The Dodgers got the double play; the Mariners, who stranded 16 runners to tie a franchise record, had men in scoring position the last six innings and could only tie the score in the eighth; and Karros clubbed a 3-2 pitch into the seats in right-center for his 25th homer in the 11th.

Seattle’s Alex Rodriguez sits up with the help of Mariner trainers after a collision at second base with Alex Cora of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fifth inning Friday night at Safeco Field. Rodriguez was hit hard in the jaw by Cora’s knee and knocked unconscious while sliding into second and trying to break up a double play on a ball hit by Edgar Martinez.

A fifth-inning collision left Alex Rodriguez (left) and Alex Cora sprawled on the infield.

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