Perhaps only the Dodgers, who struggle even when they are on a winning streak, could have been a party to such a bizarre and confusing ending as the one in Thursday night’s 2-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves.
Someday, this one might wind up as one of those baseball trivia quizzes that are meant to stump fans who don’t keep the rule book on their bedside table at night.
The question: How can a game end on a base hit by player on the team that is trailing without the ball being touched by the defensive team?
With Brave runners on first and third and two out in the ninth inning, Atlanta’s Ted Simmons hit a line drive off Dodger starter Orel Hershiser that was seemingly headed into right field to easily score Trench Davis with the tying run.
Instead, the ball hit Glenn Hubbard, the runner at first base, squarely on the shoulder and then trickled into shallow right field. Hubbard slumped to the ground, as if shot, and Dodgers players momentarily mulled around the field unaware that the final out had been recorded.
But first base umpire Gerry Davis singled Hubbard out, giving the Dodgers their third straight one-run win.
For those scoring at home, give Simmons a single and also make the game-ending put out by first baseman Franklin Stubbs, who never actually touched the ball.
The bizare was preceded by the controversial in the top of the ninth, with the Dodgers holding a 2-0 lead thanks to John Shelby’s solo home run and a Mike Marshall RBI single in the seventh off loser Doyle Alexander.
After Hershiser, winner of four of his last five decisions, walked Dale Muprhy to begin the ninth, Ken Griffey hit a nubber back to Hershiser.
Hershiser bobbled the ball and then lofted an underhand throw to first base. Davis called Griffey safe, but replays showed that the toss had beaten Griffey.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda naturally argued the call, and that resulted in his first ejection of the season.
Two ground-ball outs later, Muprhy had scored from third, cutting the Dodger lead to 2-1. Then, Hubbard reached first on an infield single, moving Davis, sent in as a pinch runner, to third.
And that set up the bizare ending to what had been a rather routine game.
Through six innings, the Dodgers did not do much against Alexander, who was working on a sequel to his complete-game four-hitter June 10 in Atlanta.
The Braves didn’t hit Hershiser much harder, although they did manage to produce the only two scoring threats in the early going.
Those came in the third and the fifth innings, but Hershiser pitched his way out of both jams to send the team scoreless into the seventh.
Glenn Hubbard opened the third inning against Hershiser by ripping a high, inside off-speed pitch into the left-field corner for a double. Alexander failed in three attempts to move Hubbard to third via a bunt, but Dion James’ subsequent groundout to second did the job. But that left the Braves with two outs and Rafael Ramirez at the plate.
Hershiser bore down and forced Ramirez to ground to second to end the inning.
The Braves’ fifth-inning rally took shape when Graig Nettles led off with a single to right, and then Ozzie Virgil followed with a single to left. That put Braves on first and second with no outs, but the down side for Atlanta was that the bottom of the order was up.
Hershiser struck out Hubbard on a 3 and 2 pitch, then Alexander again failed three times to bunt the runners over a base. That left it to James, who had gone 4 for 5 on Wednesday, to try to bring home Nettles from second. But James hit a slow roller to shortstop Dave Anderson, who fielded it on the run and threw out James.
The Dodgers advanced Anderson to second base in the first inning, but left him stranded there when John Shelby and Pedro Guerrero struck out.
About their only other potential scoring chance through six innings came in the fifth, when Mike Scioscia broke his 0-for-25 streak by singling to center with one out. That brought up third baseman Jeff Hamilton, himself struggling through an 0-11 slump at the time.
With the count 1 and 2, Scioscia was thrown out trying to steal second, apparently on a bungled hit-and-run play. Hamilton endured that, but then took a called third strike.
The Dodgers made two minor-league roster moves Thursday involving two familiar names--Mota and Guerrero. In a somewhat surprising trade, the Dodger sent triple-A infielder Larry See to the Texas Rangers organization for Jose Mota, son of Dodger hitting coach Manny Mota. See, 27, had been hitting .304 with 6 home runs and 44 runs batted in at Albuquerque. Mota, 22, was hitting .211 in 21 games for Tulsa, the Rangers’ double-A affiliate. . . . In another move, the Dodgers signed 18-year-old Ramon Guerrero, younger brother of Pedro Guerrero, to a contract with the Santo Domingo Dodgers of the Dominican Republic Summer League. . . . Manny Mota on Jose: “I like him,” Mota said, smiling. “I like him as a player, and I like him as a son, too.” Mota said he had no input on the trade. “No, I had nothing to do with it, because, if they had asked me, I’m going to say he’s the best player there is.”
Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia has gone 0 for 24 since his return from fracturing the middle finger on his left hand. Scioscia says the finger is not the reason for the slump. “I think it’s just missing two weeks, not being able to swing during much of that time,” Scioscia said. “But I’m able to catch and that’s the most important part of my game. I’m definitely starting to feel the hitting is starting to come around. I hope so.” . . . Reliever Matt Young, who worked three scoreless innings in Wednesday’s 5-4 Dodger win, reported no soreness in his left elbow, which had sidelined him since June 7. “I feel fine, and I guess I could throw tonight (Thursday). But I doubt that they would use me tonight.”
Phil Garner rejoined the Dodgers Thursday night. Garner received permission from the Dodgers to remain in Houston the last three days to attend to his wife, Carol, who was hospitalized. Garner and his wife arrived in Los Angeles Thursday afternoon. . . . Bernie Nicholls, center for the Kings, worked out in the infield during the Dodgers’ batting practice Thursday. . . . Len Matuszek, who underwent foot surgery last week, had the cast removed Thursday and will be examined again next week by Dr. William Wagner. Matuszek is expected to miss at least six weeks.