This Time, Niedenfuer Gets It Done : Reliever Puts Out Fire in Atlanta to Save 10th Win for Valenzuela, 5-2

Times Staff Writer

It was 50 years ago this month that "Gone With the Wind" was published, an anniversary they're observing with much fanfare here.

It was just one night ago that Tom Niedenfuer failed to hold a Dodger lead in the 10th inning.

So what do the Civil War and the Dodgers' loss Tuesday night have in common?

As far as Niedenfuer is concerned, they're both history, and frankly, Tommy, he could give a damn.

Thus, all was forgotten Wednesday night, when Niedenfuer faced down Bob Horner with the bases loaded in the seventh, defused Atlanta's so-called "Bomb Squad" and saved Fernando Valenzuela's 10th win in the Dodgers' 5-2 defeat of the Braves before 27,808 at Atlanta Fulton-County Stadium.

Franklin Stubbs' bases-loaded single in the third inning helped stake Valenzuela to a 4-0 lead. But it wasn't until Stubbs launched his 12th home run of the season--and sixth this month--in the ninth that the Dodgers were able to breathe any easier, even though they had 15 hits, 13 off Atlanta starter Craig McMurtry.

Certainly, Niedenfuer had his tense moments, no more so than in the seventh, when he entered the game to confront Horner, who with Dale Murphy had taken Valenzuela deep for home runs on consecutive pitches in the fourth.

But that's the nature of Niedenfuer's job. He sees more anxiety attacks than most Beverly Hills shrinks, and gets paid almost as much to deal with them.

He has found amnesia to be the most effective therapy when he loses.

"Once I wake up in the morning, it's gone," he said. "I stayed up last night and watched the news, and saw those two hits that beat me. It's hard to believe they weren't outs."

But Niedenfuer also has a very selective memory, and was fully aware that Horner had just one hit in 15 previous at-bats against the Dodger reliever.

"You don't know whether they're going to pull Fernando in that situation," he said, "but it's a lot easier going against a guy that you know you've gotten out. I knew it, and he knew it, too."

That knowledge wasn't of any help to Horner, who popped up Niedenfuer's second pitch to shortstop Mariano Duncan.

"I feel I've taken some good hacks against him, but on the flip side, what's the result?" Horner said. "I'm out. So what if you take some great swings? If he gets the job done, he gets the job done."

The Braves put the tying runs on in the eighth, when Rafael Ramirez singled, stole second and went to third on Alex Trevino's throwing error, and Glenn Hubbard walked on four pitches.

But Niedenfuer got pinch-hitter Ted Simmons, spiritual leader of the Bomb Squad as the Braves' reserves have been dubbed, on a tapper to the mound to end the inning.

Brave Manager Chuck Tanner has used seven pinch-hitters in two games. They're 0 for 7 with five strikeouts and one double play.

And in the ninth, Niedenfuer got a break when center fielder Ken Landreaux made a kick worthy of the World Cup. Landreaux booted Claudell Washington's pop-fly single directly to shortstop Mariano Duncan, who wheeled and threw out Washington, who unwisely had attempted to stretch the hit into a double.

"It was good talk by Kenny," said Duncan, noting that Landreaux's mouth worked as swiftly as his feet.

"He said, 'Second, second, second!' That's what I needed."

The Dodgers have been in need of a few more wins on the road. This was their third in five games on this trip, but only their 10th in 31 games this season.

Landreaux, however, profits away from home, which has nothing to do with his expense accounts. Landreaux is batting .203 at Dodger Stadium, 113 points higher (.316) wherever else the Dodgers play.

He tripled and scored on Mike Marshall's infield hit in the first and delivered one of five straight Dodger singles off McMurtry in the third.

"I can't explain it," Landreaux said. "Maybe it's all the AstroTurf fields. I'm a good AstroTurf hitter."

Landreaux is batting .471 on turf, but he's only had 34 at-bats on the rugs.

Valenzuela, on the other hand, appears at home on any grass, real or ersatz, although Atlanta has been something less than the Garden of Eden.

He had a 5-5 career record here and was in jeopardy of falling on the debit side when he walked Hubbard and Murphy around a single by Washington in the seventh.

The walk to Murphy was especially rankling, since Valenzuela thought he had struck him out with a 2-and-2 fastball on the outside corner.

"For me, that's a good pitch," he said, "but the umpire called it a ball."

One ball later, Lasorda called it a night for his ace, who ultimtately joined Houston's Bob Knepper as the league's only 10-game winners.

"He was completely exhausted," Lasorda said. "He'd thrown a lot of pitches and run the bases. I could see it by the look on his face."

Valenzuela, the man of many faces, laughed when told what Lasorda had said.

"I feel good," Valenzuela said, "but it was a close game, 4-2, and four runs aren't that many in this ballpark."

Dodger Notes

There are conflicting stories on why Steve Sax left the clubhouse immediately following Tuesday night's 4-3 loss in 10 innings and came back only after Manager Tom Lasorda and coach Manny Mota retrieved him. Sax said he was upset at an abusive fan and because of the tough loss and had gone into the tunnel to "cool off." But a clubhouse observer said Lasorda and Sax had a shouting match because of Sax's inability to field Ken Oberkfell's game-tying, ground-ball single in the 10th, which ended when Sax stormed out of the clubhouse. Sax denied he had any confrontation with the manager. "Nothing happened," he said. "I was just upset." Lasorda told reporters Sax made a "tremendous effort" on the ball. . . . The Dodgers appeared to be admitting a mistake with the way they had Sax positioned for Oberkfell Wednesday night. The night before, Sax was shaded toward the middle and was a step away from grabbing Oberkfell's roller through the right side. Wednesday night, Sax was playing straightaway for the left-handed-hitting Oberkfell. Don McMahon, the Dodger "eye in the sky," said the change was made because Oberkfell recognized the Dodgers were pitching him inside and he was trying to pull. . . . Bill Madlock sat out the game with a strained groin muscle. . . . Reggie Williams' wife, Allyson, remained in the hospital Wednesday and underwent further tests after complaining of stomach pains the night before. . . . The Dodger staff's earned-run average was 3.50 coming into the game. The last time the Dodgers finished a season with an ERA that high was in 1979, when it was 3.83. . . . Mark Cresse, the Dodger bullpen coach and batting practice pitcher, left the mound in pain Wednesday. Cresse tore cartilage in his left knee a couple of weeks ago at Philadelphia, aggravated it here, and plans to undergo surgery as soon as possible.

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