As is sometimes the case with return engagements, this one was not a hit.
Greg Brock, newly returned to the Dodger lineup after missing 21 of the team’s first 28 games because of elbow injuries, would just as soon have missed another Thursday night.
Brock was credited, if that’s the right word, with two 10th-inning errors as the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Dodgers, 5-4, in front of a Dodger Stadium crowd of 37,775.
Some in that crowd thought Steve Sax should have been given one of the errors because of the throw he made, but whoever was to blame, it was not one of the Dodgers’ finer efforts.
They had tied the game in the bottom of the ninth, but that was all the heroics they could manage.
Cardinal center fielder Mike McGee led off the 10th with a single, then advanced to third when Brock failed to catch reliever Ken Howell’s pick-off throw.
After Terry Pendleton had grounded out, pinch-hitter Steve Braun hit into what appeared to be a sure double play, but Brock dropped the relay from Sax, allowing McGee to score the winning run.
The Cardinals seemed to have had the game in hand in the ninth when they led, 4-2, with one out after starter Kurt Kepshire had limited the Dodgers to just three hits.
But after Kepshire walked Sax, he was removed when pinch-hitter Terry Whitfield connected for his second home run of the season to make it 4-3.
Ricky Horton came on to try to get the last two outs, but instead allowed Sax to steal second, and gave up a single to Bill Russell that put men on the corners with one out.
Horton recovered by striking out Candy Maldonado, but then was replaced by Neil Allen.
Allen fell behind, 2-0, to Pedro Guerrero, evened the count at 2-2, and then gave up the game-tying single to center that brought Sax home to make it 4-4.
Mike Marshall struck out and the game went to extra innings.
Fernando Valenzuela was the Dodger starter, and if Brock had a bad night, Valenzuela’s wasn’t much better.
Valenzuela lasted eight innings, but gave up eight hits, four runs, four walks and had one wild pitch.
True, Fernando struck out eight and, true, one of the St. Louis runs off him was unearned, but, all in all, this is not one performance he will remember with any fondness.
Valenzuela, making his eighth start of the season, fell behind early when the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the top of the second.
After walking first baseman Jack Clark, Valenzuela saw McGee hit a sharp single onto the dirt between second and third. Mariano Duncan, sprinting over from his shortstop position, fielded the ball cleanly, but then threw it wildly over second base, and the Cardinals suddenly had runners on second and third with none out.
Third baseman Pendleton then singled to left, driving in Clark and McGee.
Pendleton caused Valenzuela another uneasy moment in the sixth inning when Valenzuela snared a ball the St. Louis infielder hit sharply back to the mound. The ball caused more of a sting than Fernando expected, and he walked off the mound shaking his hand. The Dodger trainer came out, but Valenzuela was able to continue.
In the bottom of the sixth, in fact, he showed that all was well with the hand when he almost cleared the wall in right with what looked like a sure home run. The ball died at the end of its flight, however, and was cradled by Vince Coleman in front of the 360 sign to end the inning.
After the Cardinals had taken the 2-0 lead, the Dodgers, for once, wasted little time in getting Fernando back on even terms. Again, errors played a part.
Catcher Mike Scioscia led off the bottom of the second with a walk and advanced to second on Brock’s single to right. R.J. Reynolds hit a sacrifice fly to right-center, scoring Scioscia to make it 2-1. Valenzuela didn’t help his chances of a win when he ended the inning by hitting into a double play.
The Dodgers tied the game in the third, however, when Kepshire yielded back-to-back walks to Sax and Duncan. An error on catcher Darrell Porter brought in the tying run.
Guerrero struck out, and on the pitch Sax stole third and Duncan second. Porter’s throw to third hit the dirt and bounced off Sax’s helmet, allowing both runners to take an extra base.
Valenzuela held the Cardinals scoreless for the next four innings, but, in the seventh, St. Louis took command.
Ozzie Smith singled to open the inning and was sacrificed to second by Kepshire. Coleman, who has now hit safely in nine of his last 10 games, powered a double up the middle to score Smith and restore the Cardinals’ lead.
Not content with that, Coleman then stole third, sliding in under Guerrero’s tag. The call brought boos from the crowd and Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda from the dugout, but Lasorda’s protest was a muted one and he soon gave it up.
After Lonnie Smith had struck out, Tommy Herr, who came into the came tied for the league lead in hitting with a .365 average, singled to left to bring Coleman home and give the Cardinals a two-run cushion.
Dodger Notes Going into Thursday’s game, the Dodgers led the league with 207 runners left on base in 28 games (7.4 average). . . . Greg Brock’s appearance was only his eighth of the season. He apparently has recovered from the elbow injuries that have sidelined him for most of the year, although the Dodgers still describe his condition as “day to day.” . . . Fernando Valenzuela was 0-2 with a 6.5 ERA in three starts against the Cardinals last season. One of those losses was a 10-5 defeat in St. Louis when Kurt Kepshire was pitching for the Cardinals.