For the Dodgers, the countdown now seems as inevitable as the one they’re conducting at Cincinnati.
Pete Rose may have a rendezvous with destiny, but the Dodgers are all but certain of a date in the National League playoffs.
Ask Rose, and he’d probably say he’d trade places with the Dodgers, who increased their already substantial lead in the National League West to 9 1/2 games by sweeping a doubleheader from the Atlanta Braves while Rose’s second-place Reds were losing to the third-place Padres at Cincinnati.
“This may be it,” Dodger Vice President Al Campanis said in the press box, moments before Greg Brock’s grand slam home run in the Dodgers’ 10-4 second-game win provided the exclamation point to a night that began with Rick Honeycutt’s first complete game in more than a year in the Dodgers’ 10-1 win in the first game.
If it’s magic numbers you want, here goes: It’s 18 and counting. Any combination of Dodger wins and Reds losses, and the Dodgers have their fifth division title in Tom Lasorda’s ninth season as manager.
The Dodgers, who already have won two more games (81) than they did in 1984, have 26 games left. If they play .500 ball the rest of the way, the Reds would have to win 23 of their remaining 27 games--just to tie.
“I can’t see anybody catching them,” Brave Manager Bobby Wine said. “They’ve got an army over there. Every guy they put up there can do something.
“I guess that Big Dodger in the Sky came out this year and showed himself. And I guess we’ll have to get Gary Cooper from MGM to help us.”
Tuesday night, Wine not only had to make do without Cooper, he had to try to get by with two pitchers, Pascual Perez and Craig McMurtry, who had a combined record of 1-12.
Perez, who used to play Jesse James on the mound, striking out a batter then making a pistol with his fingers, has ended up where all gunfighters ultimately do: Boot Hill. He lasted five outs in the first game, by which time the Dodgers had a 5-0 lead.
The Dodgers went on to reach double figures in both games and now have scored 29 runs in three games against the Braves, who countered with a perfect night from Dale Murphy in the second game and little else.
Murphy hit his league-leading 35th home run, two singles and walked twice in the second game.
But Murphy was upstaged by any number of Dodgers, who got three hits and five RBIs from shortstop Mariano Duncan in the first game and home runs by Brock, Len Matuszek and Mike Scioscia in the second.
It was almost enough to make a person forget that Pedro Guerrero was missing from the lineup. Guerrero is still out with a sore left wrist.
Lasorda was concerned before the game. He was too busy trying to figure out who he was going to summon for help from the Dodger bullpen on a night that he rested his two overworked aces, Tom Niedenfuer and Ken Howell.
Conditions took a decided turn for the better when Honeycutt, whose last start had been 17 days earlier, went the distance and shut down the Braves on four hits for his first complete game since July 21, 1984, when he beat the Cardinals, 3-1, at St. Louis.
“When you get 10 runs like that, you’d better pitch one,” said Honeycutt, who also singled twice.
“The guys were telling me before the game, ‘Complete it, no matter what.’ I said, ‘Give me seven runs and I will.’ We had that by the third inning.”
Bobby Castillo, the second-game starter, was good for only three innings. He gave up a two-run home run to Murphy in the first and walked three Braves in the third, when they scored again to make it 3-3.
But that’s when the iceman cometh: rookie Dennis Powell, who was driving an ice truck just down the road a piece--"Three hours’ drive south on I-75,” he said--when Dodger scout Tommy Mixon spotted him pitching in a semipro game.
For Powell, who had earned his first big-league save the night before, this was like pitching in his own backyard. He had a shaky fourth inning, when he gave up three hits, including an RBI single to Murphy, then shut down the Braves on one hit the next three innings for his first big-league win.
“Everything is good,” Powell said. “I’ve accomplished all the things (a win and save) first at home in Georgia.”
Powell said about 20 people, including his mother, brother and “practically all of my friends” had come to the game from his hometown of Norman Park. “The town is so small,” said rookie Stu Pederson, “that there’s one house and everybody lives in it.”
For all but one inning of the doubleheader, Lasorda used only one catcher: Scioscia, who was hit in the back by Brave pitcher Steve Shields after Shields had walked Mike Marshall on four pitches to force in the tie-breaking run in the second game, then gave up the slam to Brock, his second this season.
The next time Scioscia came up, he hit his seventh home run and second in two nights off Brave reliever Dave Schuler.
“Campanella used to catch every day,” Lasorda said, when asked why he hadn’t rested Scioscia. “So did Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Johnny Bench.
“Why not Scioscia? He’s big and strong. And he’s Italian. Did you ever see an Italian who needed a rest?”
“Yeah,” said Joe Ferguson, the Dodger Eye in the Sky. “The guy who built Rome.”
Scioscia said the rest can come later.
“I don’t feel like I have to save it,” he said. “The next three weeks will make or break our season. This is the time to go hard. This was a big swing today. If we’d lost two and Cincinnati had won, they would have been 6 1/2 back. Now, it’s 9 1/2.”
Someone asked Lasorda if the race were over.
“Come on,” he said. “You know better than that.”
Later, someone explained to him the mathematics of the race. His response?
“We’ve got to win tomorrow.”
Dodger Notes Ken Landreaux, who started the night 0 for 18, singled on his first at-bat and had three hits in the second game. . . . Bill Madlock sat out the second game because the strained muscle in his left leg was bothering him. . . . Brave ace Rick Mahler (17-14), who was supposed to have pitched Tuesday, was scratched because of a fractured little finger on his right hand. Mahler injured the finger sliding into second base, but the injury did not show on three sets of X-rays before it was finally detected.