Guerrero Ignites Dodgers
As far as Pedro Guerrero is concerned he might as well have been sent to Club Med as the outfield. He couldn’t be any more relaxed. Look at him standing out there: Is that a Mai Tai in his hand or just a baseball glove?
Guerrero, who kick-started the Dodger offense Monday night with his third home run in four games, insists his renewed offense is more or less a product of playing in the outfield, a virtual mental vacation after holding down third, a busy corner, for nearly a year and a half.
“Not too much to think,” said Guerrero of his day at the beach. The outfield vacation is apparently the antidote to victimization.
Guerrero’s home run was just one of three from the heart of the lineup but, according to winning pitcher Rick Honeycutt, it was the key to the Dodgers’ 7-4 victory over the Reds before 18,064 in Riverfront Stadium.
“When Pete swings the bat well, it takes pressure off the other hitters,” said Honeycutt (4-5), who allowed the Reds a quick 3-0 lead but hung on long enough to see his hitters hit. “When Pete picks up, the other guys follow suit.”
Well, Pete’s picking up. Since he’s been returned to the outfield, Guerrero has hit in eight of nine games (13-37, .353), hit five home runs and driven in 11 runs.
Manager Tom Lasorda has maintained that the move to the outfield is unrelated to Guerrero’s hitting. He has used the term ironic. But Guerrero, at least, is pretty sure it’s not coincidental.
“I was trying to concentrate too much on defense,” said Guerrero of his third base days. He believes that his bad play at third at the beginning of last season affected his hitting.
“Last year I was putting pressure on myself and when I made too many errors at third . . . .” He trailed off. It is perhaps no coincidence that while Guerrero was making 16 errors before being returned to the outfield in July last year, he was hitting in the low .200s.
“At this time last year,” he said, “I was going crazy.”
He is going crazy once more, but in an entirely different way. Although he was hitting for a .270 average while playing at third, he was not producing runs for the Dodgers. “Since moving to the outfield, the long ball has come fast,” he said.
Whatever the reason, Guerrero is hitting. And so are Greg Brock and Mike Marshall who also homered off Red starter John Stuper (5-5). Is that coincidental? Not at all, Brock says. “Sometimes,” he said, “it’s contagious.”
In any event, said Lasorda, it’s welcome. “Those three, plus Ken Landreaux, are supposed to give us offense.”
He hopes the three of them will help the Dodgers get exactly what they need which, according to Lasorda, is nothing less than a seven-game winning streak. “I told the club today, we need seven in a row.” No pressure there.
If they get the hitting from the big guys and the accustomed pitching, seven in a row should be a cinch. Especially if the opponents continue to make errors like the Reds did.
The Dodgers were trailing, 3-0, when Guerrero hit his ninth home run of the season in the fourth. One out later, Marshall hit his 10th homer of the year.
The Dodgers’ five-run fifth inning may look like the result of brute power in the box score but, in fact, it was a result of an error by catcher Alan Knicely who set up the big inning when he made a bad throw to second after recovering Honeycutt’s bunt. Honeycutt was trying to advance Dave Anderson, who opened the fifth with an infield hit.
One out later, Mariano Duncan singled, and Landreaux followed with a two-run double. Guerrero then singled for his second RBI of the night. Amazingly, Stuper was still on the mound when Brock came to the plate. A bad move on Red Manager Pete Rose’s part?
“I don’t know about that,” Brock said. “He got me out the first two times. Anyway, I didn’t hit the ball real well. Might have scraped a little paint going over the wall.”
Until the fifth inning, it appeared the Dodgers might reprise their fall-behind, stay-behind act. Knicely, who makes up for his defense (six errors in 21 games) with his offense, took Honeycutt to the river in the first inning with a two-run home run, which capped a three-run inning. Honeycutt is used to losing when he doesn’t give up runs (his ERA was 2.11, giving the lie to his losing record) so he didn’t hope for a lot after that inning. “I was fortunate,” he understated, “to have that big fifth inning.”
Honeycutt got it back together and held on until the sixth inning when Dave Parker doubled and Tony Perez singled behind him. Soon Tom Niedenfuer was on the mound and that was that.
Honeycutt was grateful, especially since he does not ordinarily do that well against the Reds. His lifetime ERA against them was 5.82. “More psychic than anything else,” he said. “I do not concentrate on keeping the ball down here.”
Maybe what Honeycutt needs is a little vacation. Maybe he needs to play in the outfield.
Dodger Notes A base-running gaffe shortened the Dodgers’ big fifth inning. Steve Sax rounded second by about 15 feet too much, getting himself into a pickle he couldn’t get out of. . . . After Pedro Guerrero and Mike Marshall homered, the Dodgers had hit 43 home runs, 34 with the bases empty. “It looked like we were going to keep hitting single home runs until (Greg) Brock scored two points,” said Manager Tom Lasorda. . . . The Dodgers had 41 lineup changes in 55 games, this after three set lineups in a row this road trip. Lasorda made one more Monday night, moving Guerrero to left field to make it easier on his arm. . . . Red player-Manager Pete Rose did not play and still needs 48 hits to surpass Ty Cobb’s record of 4,191. . . . Tonight’s matchup: the Dodgers’ Jerry Reuss (3-5) vs. Tom Browning (5-5).