One by One by One, Dodgers See Padres Sweep Them Away
By mid-summer, perhaps, these nights will have been safely forgotten, with only an occasional shudder reminding the Dodgers of this misbegotten beginning to a new season.
For now, however, the dread is too fresh, the pain too real, the results too distressing. For now, for the Dodgers, the last-place Dodgers, there are only fretful days and sleepless nights.
That condition was furthered by Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the San Diego Padres, the Dodgers’ 10th straight one-run game of 1986, their third straight one-run loss in the Padres’ last at-bat and their seventh one-run loss of the season.
Graig Nettles, who barely had been able to make contact with two Tom Niedenfuer fastballs that nearly struck him out and sent the game into extra innings, jumped on one last Niedenfuer fastball and pounded it into right field, scoring Kevin McReynolds with the winning run and touching off a scene straight out of October.
While 30,403 fans rocked Jack Murphy Stadium, Goose Gossage sprinted out of the dugout toward first base and engulfed Nettles with a hug.
“That’s my buddy,” said a jubilant Gossage, who pitched the ninth in relief of Dave Dravecky and got the win.
“If it had been anybody else, though, I would have done the same thing.”
For the Padres, the first-place Padres, it has been a somebody else in virtually all of their seven wins. They, too, have played a record 10 one-run games, seven against the Dodgers, five of those seven being wins.
Monday night, it was sore-kneed Bruce Bochy homering in the bottom of the 11th off Ed Vande Berg for a 4-3 win.
Tuesday night, it was a flu-ridden Garry Templeton singling in the winner off Ken Howell in the 12th for a 2-1 win.
Wednesday night, it was 41-year-old Nettles, batting .063 coming into the game, going to the plate to bat for Jerry Royster against Niedenfuer.
Niedenfuer, who the night before pitched three innings, entered the game after Dennis Powell--who pitched brilliantly in his first outing as Jerry Reuss’ replacement in the Dodger rotation--had walked McReynolds on four pitches.
Niedenfuer, who already has gone three innings twice in a game this season, would not admit to any hint of fatigue.
“Ask (Steve) Garvey how tired I was,” Niedenfuer said defiantly while his right elbow soaked in ice. “Ask Garvey how hard I was throwing.”
Garvey, the first hitter to face Niedenfuer, had his bat shattered by the Dodger reliever on a weak grounder to first that advanced McReynolds.
The Dodgers then elected to intentionally walk Templeton. Padre Manager Steve Boros summoned Nettles. Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, his faith obviously shaken in left-handed relievers Carlos Diaz (18.00 earned-run average) and Vande Berg (10.13), elected to stay with Niedenfuer.
Niedenfuer went to a full count on Nettles, then threw the two fastballs that Nettles fouled into the screen behind home plate.
“I got just enough of them to foul back, obviously,” Nettles said. “The first two were belt high.”
In the Padre dugout, Gossage watched anxiously.
“I was just hoping he (Niedenfuer) would throw him another fastball,” Gossage said. “I’ve played with him a long time. He’s so tough in the clutch. I’d hate to face him in that situation.”
From the stretch, Niedenfuer reared back and fired one more time.
“Fastball, letter high,” Nettles said. “And I’m a fastball hitter, anyway.
“It might have been out of the strike zone, but it was an American League strike.”
And a National League base hit, the ball sailing over the right side of the Dodger infield.
The Padre celebration transferred from the field to their clubhouse. In the Dodger clubhouse, there was mostly silence.
In the last two games, spanning 21 innings, the Dodgers have scored a total of two runs on a total of 10 hits. For the series, it was five runs, 21 hits.
“It’s definitely different,” Niedenfuer said. “I’ve never seen games like this go on for so long.”
Nettles, weighing the impact of such losses on the Dodgers, said:
“I’m sure it takes something out of them. To lose this many one-run games, it makes them think about how much they miss (Pedro) Guerrero.
” . . . I hope it does (affect them). I hope it bothers them emotionally and affects them for a couple more games.
“Any time we can put distance between us and the Dodgers is good.
“I hope it works psychologically against them, but I doubt if Lasorda will let it. He’s too much of an upbeat guy to let it affect them.”
And the effect on the Padres?
“We’ve got to keep the heat on and don’t let up,” Gossage said. “Once the season starts, it’s hell. We can’t let up. That’s the key to successful clubs.”
Tuesday night, Lasorda had splattered the clubhouse walls with invective after the Dodgers’ second straight extra-inning loss here. There probably would have been pizza on the ceiling, too, Niedenfuer said, but in San Diego, they wisely keep the players’ postgame meal in another room.
“I just to hate see us losing when we’ve had such well-pitched games,” Lasorda said.
“I told our team on Opening Day we all felt we were going to win this thing without Pete, but we got to be able to execute the little things because the games will be much closer.
“Little did I realize that we’d play nine one-run games and four extra-inning games. I didn’t know it was going to be like this.”
Lasorda was particularly irked by Ken Landreaux’s failure to advance Mariano Duncan after Duncan’s leadoff single in the 11th.
“The guy (Landreaux) bunted the first pitch and fouled it. McReynolds bunts the first pitch and gets it down. Then I have Duncan running (on the hit and run), but the guy doesn’t hit the ball on the ground, he fouls it off.”
Landreaux eventually popped out to short left. But Wednesday, he had two of the Dodgers’ six hits off Dave Dravecky, both doubles, and scored a disputed run in the fourth.
Landreaux’s long drive to right just missed clearing the fence at the 370-foot sign before bouncing high off the wall. He took third on Enos Cabell’s bouncer to the right side and was still there when Mike Marshall struck out, the first of two occasions when Marshall would go down swinging with a man on third.
But Cesar Cedeno, still trying to play himself into shape, followed with a line drive over third that landed just inside the line, according to third-base umpire Fred Brocklander, or was clearly foul, according to Padre third baseman Jerry Royster.
Brocklander, of course, won the argument--Landreaux scored and Cedeno reached second with a double--but for the rest of the night, the umpire was jeered on every foul ball hit to the left side.
For fans here, the record string of one-run games has been a double bonus: The Dodgers and Padres were satisfying the fans’ appetite not only for exciting baseball but also for roast beef sandwiches as well. A national chain has been offering a free roast beef sandwich in exchange for a ticket stub in a “Win By One” promotion. So far, the number of possible freebies totalled 126,336.
Steve Sax and Bill Madlock returned from their doctor’s appointments in Los Angeles in time to be available to pinch-hit Wednesday night. But neither Sax (bruised right heel) nor Madlock (strained left hip muscle) should be able to play for another two or three days, according to Dr. Frank Jobe. And Sax, who was fitted for an arch support, suggested that estimate may be optimistic. . . . Dave Anderson replaced Madlock at third, and Bill Russell filled in for Sax at second. With left-hander Dave Dravecky pitching, Alex Trevino caught instead of Mike Scioscia and Enos Cabell replaced Greg Brock at first. Scioscia is hitting .179, Brock .171. When someone commented on the lineup, Russell said: “We can’t do any worse.” . . . Manager Tom Lasorda on Rick Honeycutt’s six-inning, one-run outing Tuesday: “If he gives me six good innings every time he goes out there, that’s all I want.” Said Honeycutt: “I felt a little bit more relaxed, yet aggressive at the same time. I haven’t been like that in a long time. Instead of being aggressive, I wanted to be perfect. This was a big lift for me, confidence-wise.” . . . Cesar Cedeno, a Dodger for one week, asked how close he was to being ready: “Ask me that in two more weeks. This is the first year in my 20 years in baseball that I really haven’t had a spring training. I’ve still got to lose a little weight, at least 10 pounds. When I’m around 200, I’ll feel better.” . . . Ed Amelung, playing first base for Albuquerque, suffered a broken left wrist Monday night.