Valenzuela Finds Something Extra to Beat Giants
Tired of losing, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda would not allow Fernando Valenzuela the luxury of becoming tired Wednesday afternoon.
So, Valenzuela merely was inexhaustible. And when it mattered most, he was also unhittable.
The Dodgers’ 6-4 win over the San Francisco Giants here was fashioned in great measure by the return of Bill Madlock, who had three hits, among them a home run, and the return of the bald eagle, better known as a three-run homer, hit by Mike Marshall, one of three hits for the slump-burdened Dodger right fielder.
But the standard by which this game will be measured is the one Valenzuela has established for himself in a six-year run of memorable performances.
By that standard, this may have been a flawed masterpiece. Before a crowd of 26,069 at Candlestick Park, Valenzuela’s screwball did not tail with a death rattle. He wasn’t consistently overpowering or unerringly precise with his pitches.
But never before had Valenzuela thrown as many pitches in a big league game as he did Wednesday, 163 pitches in all, an arm-wrenching labor. And just when it appeared he could pitch no longer under constant Giant pressure, somehow Valenzuela summoned even more.
“That was incredible,” said Marshall, who had staked Valenzuela to a 3-0 lead in the first with his fourth home run of the season off Scott Garrelts.
“Three or four times, I had relaxed, figuring a relief pitcher was coming in. Then I’d look in the dugout and nobody was moving.
“If there’s another guy who could have done what he did today, I’d like to see him. I don’t think any other pitcher could have had a complete game.
“In the seventh and eighth innings, you had to believe he was done. Then he struck out three, four guys in the heart of their lineup, just when you figure he’s out of gas. Amazing.”
The Giants, who went into the game with a six-game winning streak, kept chipping away at the Dodgers’ 5-1 lead, helped along considerably by the trap-door Dodger defense, which committed three more errors, two by Madlock.
Three straight singles in the sixth, and it was 5-2. Valenzuela had Dan Gladden picked off third, but his throw skipped off Madlock’s glove and rolled under the tarpaulin along the left-field railing. Another run in, another runner at third, No. 4 hitter Jeffrey Leonard up next, and Chili Davis to follow.
Valenzuela, relying primarily on his fastball, struck out Leonard. Then he struck out Davis.
“I always thought Fernando Valenzuela was the best left-hander in the league,” said Davis, not one to compliment pitchers. “I still think so.”
In the seventh, after the Dodgers had taken advantage of a two-base throwing error by Giant reliever Bill Laskey to make it 6-3, the Giants scored again when Bob Brenly walked, Dan Driessen doubled and left-fielder Franklin Stubbs juggled the carom, Brenly scoring.
When pinch-hitter Joel Youngblood walked, the tying runs were on base. But Valenzuela got Gladden and Rob Thompson on fly balls.
“I thought we had him,” Gladden said. “But every time we thought we had him, he made that bastard of a pitch.”
Was Gladden referring to the screwball? He shook his head.
“That’s the problem,” Gladden said. “He has more than one.”
In the eighth, the first two Giant batters reached base again, Chris Brown drawing a walk, Leonard singling to left. Davis then sacrificed the runners into scoring position, but still Lasorda--perhaps mindful that the Dodgers were 0-9 in games in which the bullpen had performed--did not stir in the dugout.
“Just when you think you’ve got him on the ropes, he comes off the ropes and starts throwing punches,” Lasorda said. “You know he’s in trouble--it’s just a question of when he comes out of it.”
Valenzuela struck out Brenly, then retired Driessen on a roller to Steve Sax.
For a final flourish, Valenzuela struck out two Giant pinch-hitters in the ninth, giving him 10 strikeouts for the game.
“He had as good a stuff in the ninth as he did in the first,” pitching coach Ron Perranoski said. “Maybe better.”
Afterward, Valenzuela and Perranoski walked together to the visitors’ clubhouse at the end of the right-field foul line.
Perranoski showed Valenzuela the pitch counter he held in his hand. “He said, ‘Look at this,’ ” Valenzuela said. “ ‘One hundred and 63 pitches. My thumb is tired.’
“Perranoski worked today.”
No one labored harder than Valenzuela to give the Dodgers a victory in the final game of a disastrous 2-7 trip.
“Fernando did something we haven’t been doing,” Madlock said. “Usually when a guy has been making an error, teams have scored three or four runs.
“But Fernando picked me up, he picked somebody else up. Before, an error was an automatic three or four runs.
“He did a great job. It seemed like an impossible situation, but he was fantastic.”
Dodger Notes Fernando Valenzuela won for only the second time in his last 11 decisions at Candlestick Park. His last win here was a 1-0 shutout over Bill Laskey on April 30, 1984. . . . Bill Madlock, who had missed six games with a strained left hip muscle, still is not 100%. Nor is Steve Sax, who is playing despite a bruised right heel. “I think I could beat Saxie in a race,” Madlock said. Madlock, who singled in the first and homered in the third, scored the Dodgers’ final run when Giant reliever Laskey threw his slow roller down the right-field line. Madlock was removed for pinch-runner Dave Anderson. “When I went to first I stopped,” Madlock said. “When I got to second I stopped, and I said, ‘Well, I guess I’ve got to go to third.’ I would have settled for a single.” . . . Madlock said that Valenzuela had Dan Gladden easily picked off third base in the sixth inning. “Fernando threw a serious pea over there,” Madlock said. “I just didn’t see it.”
Mike Marshall had been 4 for 28 until his first-inning home run. On the pitch before the homer, Marshall hit a ball that landed in the seats just 10 feet foul. . . . On the importance of having Sax and Madlock back in the lineup, Marshall said: “You can’t expect Bill Madlock to get three hits and a home run every day, but we need a healthy lineup. Just having a set lineup will help.” . . . Mariano Duncan ended a 0-for-18 string with a double and single. Duncan said he had talked by phone to Pedro Guerrero, who told him he was standing too straight at the plate, instead of in the crouch he used last season. . . . Madlock was charged with interfering with Gladden after the attempted pick-off when he fell on top of the Giant runner. “I’m a King Kong Bundy fan,” Madlock said, referring to his favorite professional wrestler. “I tried to put the sleeper hold on him.”
The Dodgers report that Guerrero, who was examined by Dr. Frank Jobe Tuesday, is making excellent progress in his recovery from surgery for a torn knee tendon. There is no swelling, team officials said, and Guerrero’s recovery is right on schedule. He is expected to be out for a minimum of three months. . . . Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski, on the advisability of Valenzuela’s throwing 163 pitches, as he did Wednesday: “I don’t like to see that too often, but he’s going to finish more games than anybody in the league. He’s durable. A normal game for him is 130-something pitches.” . . . Franklin Stubbs, who hit homers in three consecutive games against the Giants in L.A. 10 days ago, has just one hit since. With an 0-for-3 performance Wednesday, Stubbs is now also hitless in his last 16 trips. Greg Brock, hitless in three at-bats, is 4 for 28.