The Dodgers, ever considerate of their fans, are going to even greater lengths in the first week of this season.
Consider, for example, the contribution of pitcher Bob Welch, who beat the San Diego Padres with a three-hit, 1-0 shutout Wednesday night before a crowd of 31,690 at Dodger Stadium.
On these cool April nights, there’s no point in keeping the home folks shivering in their seats for too long. And what’s wrong with playing nine innings and leaving plenty of time afterward for supper?
So the Dodgers, with the full cooperation of the Padres, have been making it snappy, scoring just enough runs for someone to go home a winner.
Tuesday night, it was Dave Dravecky of the Padres shutting down Orel Hershiser and the Dodgers, 1-0. Wednesday, it was Welch doing the same to Andy Hawkins and the Padres, and in a minute under two hours, no less.
“Tough league,” Hershiser said with a chuckle after Welch’s complete game, the third in a row turned in by the Dodger staff. “Give up a run and you lose. I’m going to call Hawkins.”
The last two nights have made the Dodgers’ 2-1 win in the opener seem a slugfest by comparison.
But if it’s a tough league, it’s a tougher Welch, who made only one start in the first two months last season because of a bad elbow, only to return as a pitcher of sound arm and expanded repertoire.
“The best I’ve ever seen him throw,” Padre catcher Terry Kennedy said. “Ever.”
The Padres never got a runner to second base against Welch. The last to try, pinch-runner Bip Roberts, had to be helped from the field after Mike Scioscia gunned him down attempting to steal in the eighth. Roberts injured his neck on his head-first slide and will be on a day-to-day basis.
“I’ve never seen him (Welch) throw a game with just a handful of curveballs,” said Mike Marshall, whose fourth-inning single drove in Bill Madlock with the game’s only run, and the first scored by the Dodgers since Marshall’s home run in the seventh inning of the opener.
“At one time, his curveball was his best pitch. Now, with that forkball or whatever you call it, he’s just using the curve to keep them honest.
“And where he’s throwing his pitches, to all sides of the plate, I don’t think he was giving them much of a chance.”
Welch, who pitched only five innings in April and May last year, went 14-4 the rest of the season after adding a changeup and split-fingered fastball.
“Now, everything I throw out of my hand that looks like a fastball isn’t hard,” said Welch, who walked just one and struck out five.
“The changeup is a tough pitch. At times, I was giving away my grip, but you just have to keep practicing it.”
Wednesday night, it appeared that Welch had the change--and everything else he had in his pocket--refined to a science.
“If there are three better-pitched games at the start of a season, I want to know about them,” Padre Manager Steve Boros said.
“Maybe you can research it. It was just a case of Bob Welch being his best.”
The Dodgers, who have won two out of three games despite scoring a total of three runs, got their only run on three straight singles in the fourth--the third hit, by Marshall, driving home Madlock. Sandwiched in between was a single by Greg Brock, one of two hits by Brock after going hitless in the first two games.
“How many runs have we scored? One, two, three--three,” Welch said.
Asked if he’d need to learn to count any higher, he said: “We’re going to score some runs. I pitched against those guys in spring training, they can swing the bat.
“We’ll score some, and we’ll give some up, too.”
The Dodgers might as well retire their bullpen. They haven’t started a season with three straight complete games since 1974, when Don Sutton, Tommy John and Andy Messersmith beat the Padres. The only other time they did it was in 1963, with three guys named Koufax, Drysdale and Podres.
“It won’t happen very often,” Marshall said. “I think it’s kind of unusual. But you have to give a lot of credit to both pitching staffs.
“It will change. Both teams will hit. But give credit where it’s due. I haven’t seen pitchers making very many mistakes out there.”
Hawkins, who started last season with an 11-game winning streak, lost after giving up one run on seven hits. He was lifted after Mike Scioscia singled to start the eighth.
“We don’t have to worry about a streak this year, do we?” Hawkins said.
“No way I’d lost, 1-0, last season. We were averaging five, six runs a game. I’d have won this (game) last year.”
Hawkins was especially tough on Franklin Stubbs, striking him out three straight times with high fastballs.
“They’re going to be testing him--they tested me,” Marshall said. “You’ve got to learn to lay off it (the high fastball).
“But he’s learning every day. Franklin’s got a ton of talent, and as soon as he learns his capabilities, he’s going to be tremendous. I really believe that.”
Dodger Notes Dodger pitching update: While Jerry Reuss said he expects to start Friday night against the San Francisco Giants here, Manager Tom Lasorda is still hedging. “We’ll have to see how he feels,” Lasorda said. “I’m worried about him--you have to, when a guy gets his arm X-rayed. We’ll find out how he feels.” . . . With Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser and Bob Welch throwing complete games, the Dodger bullpen has yet to see action. But Tom Niedenfuer, who hasn’t pitched in a game since last Friday, wasn’t complaining. “We’ll take all the days off we can get,” said Niedenfuer, who appeared in 64 games last season. . . . Padre Manager Steve Boros said he expects pitcher LaMarr Hoyt, who spent 28 days in an alcohol rehabilitation center this spring, to make his first start April 29 at home against the Chicago Cubs. For now, Boros said, Hoyt will come out of the bullpen in games that are one-sided. . . . Comparative statistic: The Padres’ 19 singles through their first two games is only slightly different from their output in the first two games of ’85: They had 18 singles and a double against the Giants. . . . When ex-Dodger Candy Maldonado tripled in the winning runs for the Giants in their opener Tuesday, he did something he never was able to do at Dodger Stadium. In 262 career at-bats here, Maldonado did not have a triple. . . . Sandy Koufax pitched early batting practice for the Dodgers Wednesday. “He still has the good hook (curve),” Dave Anderson said in admiration of the 50-year-old Koufax. “He could go out there and get people out.” Bill Madlock said it was the toughest batting practice he’d ever faced. “You can’t handle every pitch,” he said. “With him, you’ve really got to bear down.” . . . Tonight’s pitchers: the Padres’ Mark Thurmond (7-11) vs. the Dodgers’ Rick Honeycutt (8-12).