After Giant wait, Braves clinch Stretched to limit, San Francisco finally breaks . . .

LOS ANGELES — LOS ANGELES -- The mayor of San Francisco flew down to watch the Giants try to beat the Los Angeles Dodgers yesterday, Robby Thompson, his eye still a blood-bleached mess, strapped on a face guard to bat and play second.

Salomon Torres, the young pitcher from the Dominican Republic, dined on beans and plantains the night before, and, on the 42nd anniversary of his historic home run, Bobby Thomson sat with Giants owner Peter Magowan.


The Giants seemed ready, but with one game to determine their fate, they were summarily eliminated by the Dodgers, who gleefully humiliated them, 12-1, behind four homers and a masterful performance by right-hander Kevin Gross.

Gross spun a six-hit complete game and twice struck out Barry Bonds on wicked low-inside pitches.


"They know I'm coming forever," Bonds vowed of the Braves, who have tormented him three straight years, the previous two with the Pirates. "As long as they're in the league and God-willing I'm healthy, I'm coming. The only good thing was that I didn't have to see them on the same field, parading around like the last two years."

Still, the Dodgers reveled in every minute of the Giants' demise, all but dancing on their grave. Before the game, manager Tommy Lasorda called a team meeting, passionately invoked the history of the Dodgers-Giants rivalry and announced that a victory "would pretty much make his season," said Jody Reed.

Lasorda hugged Mike Piazza and Cory Snyder after their fifth-inning homers off reliever Dave Burba, who was sobbing after the game. When Piazza hit another in the eighth, hundreds of fans performed the tomahawk chop.

With realignment next season, the Dodgers' victory ended what many have been calling the last great transcontinental pennant race. The Braves and Giants finished with a combined 207 victories, the most by first- and second-place finishers since divisional play began in 1969.

The last team to finish second with at least 100 wins was the 1980 Orioles (100-62). "It's tough to really grasp that you could win 103 games and not be going to the playoffs," said Thompson, who had missed nine straight games after getting hit in the face with a fastball.

The reaction in the Giants' clubhouse ranged from philosophical to destroyed. Burba, who was hammered for two homers in a three-run fifth that broke open the game, patiently answered questions, but his eyes were red and his voice cracked.

As Burba left the mound, the game in shambles, manager Dusty Baker patted him on the rear. In return, Burba patted Baker with his glove. "I just wanted to tell Dusty I was sorry," he said. "I feel like I let down the owners, the coaching staff and the rest of the team."

Burba said that he felt weak in the bullpen and that his arm was sore. "I knew I didn't have it," he said, but he took the field anyway because "sometimes you have to do it for your teammates."


It could be argued that the Giants' final game exposed many of the weaknesses that made their season so implausible in the first place. His rotation battered, Baker was forced to start the 21-year-old Torres in the ultimate game.

Baker took Torres out Saturday night for some of his native food, but it didn't work. He walked four batters in 3 1/3 innings and was in trouble throughout. As they raged back, the Giants lost just four of their last 18 games. Torres lost all four.

"When you think about it now, it just wasn't meant to be," said Baker. "Not yet."