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Guerrero Stays Hot in 3-0 Win : He Shifts to First and Homers Anyway; Hershiser: 3-Hitter

Times Staff Writer

If you’ve been keeping abreast of Pedro Guerrero’s numbers, before and after, you know that he hits when he’s in the outfield and slumps in the infield. Consequently, you know he can’t, or at least shouldn’t, play in the infield.

So what do you make of this? Guerrero is installed at first base, and he hits 2 for 4 with his sixth home run in his last six games.

“When you’re hot, you’re hot,” Guerrero explained after the Dodgers’ 3-0 victory over the Houston Astros Saturday. If he was any hotter, his flannels would have to be lined with asbestos. The numbers again: Since leaving third base 11 games ago, Guerrero has hit .386 (17 for 44) with 8 home runs and 14 runs batted in.

Of course, statistics can tell you anything you want to hear. Since being returned to the infield, for example, he has hit .500.

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But as for being hot, Guerrero could have been speaking for the team as well as himself since the Dodgers, with three victories in a row, have climbed within a half-game of the second-place Astros.

Again, the pitching was nearly flawless, with Orel Hershiser (6-1) throwing a three-hitter to redeem himself (he was shelled in his previous national TV appearance), and again, the fielding was spectacular. In the fourth, with two on and Jose Cruz at the plate, the infield turned an inning-ending double play. And in the ninth, with Kevin Bass on second, Steve Sax went deep into the hole at second and made a play on Denny Walling’s grounder to end the game.

All the same, this Dodger resurgence has more to do with the Guerrero Groove, by now as deep as the Grand Canyon, than anything else. The Dodgers would be nowhere without Guerrero’s bat, Saturday or any other day.

“I feel comfortable almost everywhere,” Guerrero said finally, after reporters had gathered to hear his daily spiel, which starts off with how hard it is to concentrate on your hitting when you’re playing third base. Now, it would seem that first base, like left field, is the other position that’s fit for offensive day-dreaming. All you do is stretch every once in a while, hardly enough to interrupt grand-slam reveries.

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Thanks to Hershiser, who pitched his third shutout of the season, Guerrero did have to do a fair amount of stretching. Hershiser, after getting slammed in his last start--not even surviving two innings--returned to his own little groove, throwing a lot of ground-ball outs.

“When you see ground balls,” Manager Tom Lasorda said, “you know Orel’s in control of his game.”

Hershiser, who already has a one-hitter and a two-hitter this season, downplayed his performance. He said he had good stuff but not location, and that he’d rather have location any day. “Location is No. 1,” he said.

Catcher Steve Yeager, who got a rare start and a rare RBI single, agreed that Hershiser didn’t have good control of his curve. “It either hung or was in the dirt,” Yeager said. Keep in mind, this is a three-hitter we’re discussing.

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Hershiser may have pitched just so-so, depending on whom you talk to, but at least he got good defense. Everybody agreed on that.

Hershiser, whose earned-run average went down to 2.16, mostly wanted to talk about that key double play. “You hate to see Cruz come to the plate with men on base,” he said. “He gets a hit or even a sacrifice fly, it could be a big inning. So the double play was a turning point in my start today.”

It wasn’t exactly a routine double play, either. Shortstop Mariano Duncan was entirely wiped out by Walling on the force at second but still managed to get the throw to--stretch--Guerrero in time.

As Lasorda said: “I don’t care how good the pitching is, you can’t give a team four outs an inning.” “The important thing today was defense,” Yeager said. “The double play, the last play by Sax, that makes the difference. That plus a timely hit.”

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Yeager was referring to his own blooper over first in the second inning that scored Mike Marshall, who had led off with a walk and taken second on Candy Maldonado’s single. Maldonado, who took third on Yeager’s hit, scored the second run when Dave Anderson hit into a double play.

“It’ll look like a line drive in the box score,” Yeager suggested hopefully of his hit. “Well, it was a line drive, a semi-line drive.”

As important as Yeager’s blooper was, it was clearly distinguishable from Guerrero’s, whose bloop homers keep flying into the upper deck down the left-field line. Guerrero is no longer insisting that the move from third base, where his mind was filled with visions of line drives right at him, is what’s responsible for his offense.

“Right now, I feel relaxed,” he said. “I feel quick in the wrists. That’s the way I used to hit. Sometimes I watch games from ’82 and ’83 and I see I didn’t have to swing too hard. So I shorten my swing and be quick.”

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Lasorda said he saw Guerrero hot like this once before.

“In 1983, when, incidentally, he was playing third base.”

Dodger Notes

Steve Yeager said the Dodger offense was impressive but still could not be compared to the glory year of 1977, when four Dodger players hit 30 or more home runs--Steve Garvey (33), Reggie Smith (32), Dusty Baker (30) and Ron Cey (30). “In the 70s, we had six or seven guys who pop a two- or three-run homer,” Yeager said. “I had 16 and I was hitting seventh or eighth.” Besides Guerrero, Greg Brock (9 homers) and Mike Marshall (10) have hit for distance. But usually with nobody on. “We must lead the world in solo home runs,” Yeager said. The Dodgers have hit 48 home runs, only 10 with runners on base. . . . The Dodgers conclude their trip today, with Fernando Valenzuela (5-7) pitching against the Astros’ Mike Scott (5-2).

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TURNING ON THE POWER Since being moved from third base, the Dodgers’ Pedro Guerrero has hit 8 home runs in 11 games. Here’s the batting statistics for Guerrero during those 11 games from June 1 to June 15:

DATE OPP. PO AB R H BI June 15 at Houston 1B 4 1 2 1 HR (12) June 14 at Houston OF 3 3 2 2 HR, 2 (10,11) June 10 at Cincinnati OF 5 2 2 2 HR (9) June 9 at Atlanta OF 3 1 2 3 HR (8) June 8 at Atlanta OF 4 0 1 0 June 7 at Atlanta OF 3 2 1 1 HR (7) June 5 NY Mets OF 4 0 0 0 June 4 NY Mets OF 3 1 1 1 HR (6) June 3 NY Mets OF 6 0 3 2 June 2 Montreal OF 5 1 1 1 June 1 Montreal OF 4 2 2 1 HR (5)

TOTALS

AB R H BI AVE HR BEFORE SWITCH 168 18 45 16 .268 4 DURING 11 GAMES 44 13 17 14 .386 8 FOR SEASON 212 31 62 30 .292 12

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