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Welch Unable to Do It All; Dodgers Lose

Times Staff Writer

Dodger pitcher Bob Welch may be the greatest thing since the heart-lung machine, but he can’t do everything.

For instance, he entered Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves with two of the Dodgers’ six victories. He was ranked second in the National League in strikeouts, tied for first in shutouts and complete games, and was resting comfortably with a well-deserved 1.63 earned-run average.

But he is pitching for the Dodgers, which is usually a good thing, except that this season, runs are scarce.

So it should come as no surprise that the Dodger win streak ended abruptly at two, the result of a 4-1 loss to the Braves at Dodger Stadium.

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An audience of 36,700 saw Welch do what he could, but it wasn’t near enough. Not with the Dodgers (6-12) adding two errors, which is just two less than the number of hits they contributed to the box score. One of the errors resulted in a Brave run.

Welch (2-1, 1.82 ERA) lasted seven innings, allowed eight hits and two earned runs, walked four and struck out six but was unable to extend his win streak against the Braves to nine games.

“I pitched pretty good tonight,” Welch said, “but not good enough to win.”

Not so, Manager Tom Lasorda said. “Welch pitched good enough to win,” he said. “We just have to get some back-to-back hits, but they’ll start coming.”

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Maybe, but right now opponents have outscored the Dodgers, 69-54; outhit them, 163-122; had twice as many doubles, and produced a 54-point higher batting average (.257 to .203).

Meanwhile, Brave starter and finisher Joe Johnson (3-0) ended a string of poor performances against the Dodgers by allowing just a solo home run by Greg Brock in the sixth inning. He struck out nine Dodgers and generally made life miserable for all concerned.

Last year, Johnson was 0-1 against the Dodgers and had a 10.97 earned-run average in 10 innings of work. “They crushed me last year,” Johnson said. On Friday night, using a newly developed curveball, he was nearly flawless.

The Dodgers helped, of course. They usually do, one way or another.

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The Dodgers placed runners in scoring position early and often, only to discover it was wasted effort.

They teased their fans in the second inning as Brock walked and later moved to second when Mike Scioscia’s low line drive drilled second base umpire Terry Tata on the left ankle. Tata limped off the field and ended up in the hospital for precautionary X-rays. Scioscia, meanwhile, stayed on first base, benefactor of the ankle carom.

But what if the ball hadn’t hit Tata and instead rolled into the outfield?

“Yeah, it would have gone through,” Lasorda said. “Who is going to catch it? It puts runners at first and third. Unbelievable, isn’t it?”

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Franklin Stubbs followed and struck out, which isn’t exactly a newsflash these days (he now has 22 strikeouts in 45 at-bats). But as he walked to the dugout, Brave catcher Ozzie Virgil, thinking Stubbs had made the third out, rolled the ball toward the mound and made his way to the Atlanta bench.

Brock, meanwhile, watched in disbelief, then dashed toward third. But, alas, by then Johnson had retrieved Virgil’s mistake and was throwing to third, just in time to get Brock for a double play. Now it was the end of the inning.

“That might be a hell of a play to work on,” Lasorda said, half-laughing.

“A pretty strange play,” Johnson said.

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The Dodgers were at it again in the third, this time waiting until two outs were registered before mounting an offense. First, Steve Sax singled and advanced to third on a fielding error by first baseman Bob Horner, who botched a Johnson pickoff throw.

Mariano Duncan walked, stole second and then watched Ken Landreaux walk to load the bases. Brock ended the suspense by grounding out to third.

The Braves weren’t setting any records themselves. They scored one run in the third when Dale Murphy and Horner took turns hitting doubles. Horner’s scored Murphy and gave Atlanta a 1-0 lead.

And that prized Dodger errorless streak died after one game. Brock allowed a hard grounder hit by Ken Oberkfell to sneak past him in the sixth inning. The error let Horner, who had singled, move to third. He stayed there just long enough to watch Rafael Ramirez ground to short. Horner scored, and the Braves had a 2-0 lead.

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The Dodgers have now made 31 errors, which gives them the undisputed National League lead. At this pace, last year’s league-leading error total of 166 will be easily surpassed.

Brock made up for the eventual one-run mistake by homering to deep right-centerfield in the bottom of the sixth. It was his third home run of the season and second in as many nights. It also was just the third hit of the evening for the Dodgers.

Atlanta’s Claudell Washington led off the seventh inning with a homer to right field, making Brock’s effort little more than a pleasant memory.

Washington didn’t just hit a home run; he observed it. Washington waited until the ball landed and was pocketed by a fan before he even began to think about leaving the batter’s box. All this from the man who now has one home run for the year.

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Murphy added another run for the Braves with a ninth-inning homer that settled past the left-field wall.

“I think a team can snap out of a slump anytime,” Johnson said of the Dodgers’ hitting woes. “I have to think that everybody is a good hitter and go after them.”

What an imagination he must have.

Dodger Notes Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda announced Friday evening that left-hander Jerry Reuss will return to the starting rotation. Reuss will pitch in Sunday’s game against the Braves at Dodger Stadium. “He’s throwing the ball goodl, and that’s the decision,” Lasorda said. Reuss was sent to the bullpen shortly after an April 11 game against the Giants that saw him allow six hits, five runs (two earned) and three walks in just 3 innings. He has pitched in relief twice since then, including Tuesday evening, when he allowed no runs and one hit in two innings. Reuss said that while he wasn’t happy with the move to the bullpen, he held no grudges. “They’ve got a job to do, Lasorda and (pitching coach Ron) Perranoski, and they do it to the best of their abilities,” he said. “They’re paid well and highly respected. I’ve got a job to do and my job is to go out on the field and do what I’m told.” Reuss will take Dennis Powell’s spot in the rotation. Powell allowed five runs without getting an out in his last start.

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Bill Madlock, who continues to nurse a strained quadricep muscle, was missing from Friday night’s lineup. It marks the eighth time Madlock has missed a game. He played Thursday, but left after five innings. He also had to skip Friday’s batting practice to receive treatment for the injury. “Unfortunately, he’s not able to play again tonight,” Lasorda said. “That’s too bad because we need him.” . . . Pitcher Alejandro Pena threw 15 minutes of batting practice Friday. He said his right shoulder, the one that caused him to be placed on the disabled list, felt fine. “He looked good, but he looked good in the spring, too,” Perranoski said. “You get excited because he’s feeling good.” If all goes well, Pena will throw again Monday. . . . Orel Hershiser, who was bothered by a sore back in Thursday’s game against the Braves, said he feels better. “It’s still a little stiff, but I’ll be OK,” he said. He received treatment Friday.


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