Gooden Picks Up 12 Strikeouts, Three Hits in Win Over Dodgers
While one good legend deserves another, Dwight Gooden raised the art of fable-spinning to new heights Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium. Fernando Valenzuela, meanwhile, had another chunk of immortality carved away by the New York Mets.
Faced with identical dire straits--bases loaded, no-out jams--Gooden was other-worldly where Valenzuela was simply human. Gooden threw nine pitches, all strikes, all fastballs, to dispose of the Dodgers in the eighth inning as casually as another 20-year-old might cancel a date.
Valenzuela, battle-scarred at 24, dealt himself the same hand in the ninth but had to fold before it was played out, the Mets scoring three times for a 4-1 win before a sellout crowd of 49,386 in Dodger Stadium.
“I used to get goosebumps,” said Met Manager Davey Johnson, “but not anymore. Dwight’s like a security blanket for me.”
That blanket was suffocating for the Dodgers, who matched solo home runs with the Mets--Pedro Guerrero’s sixth home run in the sixth canceling Ray Knight’s third home run in the second--but found themselves sprawled on the canvas just when they thought they had Gooden pinned to the ropes.
Gooden, who fanned a dozen Dodgers and has a league-leading 101 strikeouts in 94 innings, gave up a bouncer up the middle to Steve Sax leading off the eighth. Ken Landreaux followed with a hit-and-run single that sent Sax to third, with Landreaux taking second on the throw.
With first base open, Gooden issued an intentional pass to Guerrero, who had struck out his first two times up but had crushed an 0-2 fastball over the 385-foot sign in right-center in the sixth.
“I’m wishing I had a chance to hit in that situation,” Guerrero said.
The three batters who did--Greg Brock, Mike Scioscia, and Terry Whitfield--ended up having no chance at all.
Gooden blew three fastballs past Brock for the first out. Scioscia chased a fastball that ran in on him and fouled out to catcher Gary Carter on the first pitch. Whitfield went 0-and-2, fouled two pitches back, then went down swinging for the third time in the game.
“I knew I had to try for the strikeout there,” Gooden said. “I just decided to go with my best, and that’s the best I could be.”
Twice, Carter called for curveballs in that span, and twice, Gooden said, he shook him off.
Last week, when he struck out 14 Giants in a 2-1 win over San Francisco, Carter said Gooden was “astounding.” And this one?
“Certainly in the same category,” he said. “Another tight situation where we needed the big outs and he came through.
“He impresses me more and more. He’s not afraid to challenge anybody, and he comes after you with his best. And he has the velocity on his fastball that he can strike out anybody at any time.”
Dodger scout Mike Brito clocked Gooden’s fastball at 94 m.p.h. during the eighth.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, a big believer in the squeeze bunt, erupted when someone asked him why he didn’t choose that option with Scioscia, a good bunter, at the plate.
“Gooden’s a tough man to squeeze on,” Lasorda said, the decibel level rising. “You should know a little bit about the game. Learn about the game.”
Carter, who came to the Mets from Montreal over the winter, has been getting a special education from Gooden.
“That was one of the most exciting innings of the year,” Carter said. “It pumped everybody up.”
Everyone in a Mets uniform, that is. What it did to Valenzuela, no one will ever know. But the Mets, who had been held to four hits since Knight’s two-out homer in the second, saw a switch to vulnerable from near-invincible.
“What can I tell you?” Valenzuela said. “I just went to the mound and tried to forget what happened in the eighth.”
While Valenzuela may have, no one else did, not after the Mets punched the instant replay button. Keith Hernandez and Carter opened the ninth with singles, and George Foster walked on five pitches to load the bases.
With Tom Niedenfuer warming up, Lasorda went to the mound, but chose to stay with Valenzuela. “He said he was all right,” Lasorda said.
Valenzuela raced to the first-base line to grab Knight’s chopper and force Hernandez at the plate for the first out. But Danny Heep, making only his second start against a left-hander while filling in for injured star Darryl Strawberry, drove Landreaux to the track in right with a sacrifice fly that broke the tie.
Rafael Santana followed with a base hit off Valenzuela’s glove to make it 3-1, and Gooden, fittingly, knocked out Fernando with his third hit of the game, an RBI single.
Gooden had lost to Valenzuela and the Dodgers, 6-2, in New York.
“Dwight was kind of feeling he had a chance to redeem himself,” Carter said. “He loves these kind of matchups, to see how he does against the best.
“Here’s a kid 20 years old, and he gets fired up when you put him up against the best.”
This night, Gooden did most of the firing.
The Dodgers optioned Tom Brennan to Albuquerque to make room for Bob Welch, who starts tonight. . . . R.J. Reynolds, the Dodgers’ leading hitter with a .291 average, and Bob Bailor both missed Tuesday night’s game with hamstring pulls. . . . After meeting for more than an hour with Donald Fehr, executive director of the Major League Players Assn., the Dodgers voted, 29-0, to authorize a strike, according to player representative Mike Scioscia. “As of right now, it does not look good,” Scioscia said. “I may be an optimist, but I hope it’s settled. We have to be prepared for the worst, and right now if negotiations proceed at the same pace, we’re looking for a strike.” . . . Jerry Reuss, a player representative for seven years, said the owners still haven’t made a proposal, “just concepts. A concept is an idea, and a proposal is something a bit more concrete . . . The era when players were bitter and angry, all that is pretty much gone. Those guys have either mellowed or are no longer in the game. Now the feeling is more, ‘Let’s get it settled, don’t challenge us.’ We respond to challenges every day.” . . . Fehr outlined a few more specifics of the owners’ proposals to the union, which included: 1) requiring another year before a player is eligible for arbitration; 2) putting a ceiling on arbitrated salaries that would prevent a player from making more than double his salary; 3) eliminate incentive clauses in contracts that are tied to things such as a club’s attendance; 4) limit raises to 20% a year in multiyear contracts; 5) prevent players over the age of 32 from signing contracts for longer than three years; 6) place limits on deferred salaries that Fehr termed “silly.” And, of course, the players’ union takes greatest exception to the owners’ payroll (salary cap) plan, “which takes a meat ax to every benefit we’ve gained,” Fehr said. . . . The head of the players’ union also met with the Mets, who did not vote Tuesday.
Both Bob Welch, who has pitched only five innings this season, and Rick Honeycutt will pitch tonight. Welch, making his first start since returning from rehabilitation at Vero Beach, Fla., probably will go no more than five innings, according to Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski. “We’ll watch how many pitches he throws,” Perranoski said. Honeycutt, who went six shutout innings May 31, also is scheduled for some work. On the condition of Honeycutt’s shoulder, Perranoski said: “His arm gets a little tired in the fifth and sixth inning, and his pitches tend to get up. It’s important for us to get him an extra day of rest here and there.” . . . A charitable official scorer kept Mets first baseman Keith Hernandez from being charged with his first error of the season. Hernandez missed Mariano Duncan’s foul pop near the Mets’ dugout in the fifth inning, but official scorer Terry Johnson ruled it no play. Duncan eventually struck out. THE DUEL
Player IP H R ER BB SO Gooden 9 8 1 1 2 12 Valenzuela 8.2 9 4 4 2 4