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Hershiser Off, but Hitters On as Dodgers Win

Times Staff Writer

Some nights, Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser just doesn’t have it. When that happens, either the Dodgers will lose or Hershiser will somehow find a way to rise above his shortcomings out of sheer perseverance.

Then, there is a third option, one not often available to Dodger pitchers so far this season--an offensive bailout.

Friday night, when Hershiser’s pitches sometimes wafted between wild and wicked and the St. Louis Cardinals got to him for three early runs, Dodger hitters, for a change, came to the aid of their pitcher.

The result was a 6-4 win over the Cardinals before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 44,301 that saw Kirk Gibson hit his first home run at home and Hershiser, himself, drive in the game-winning run with a sixth-inning grounder that Cardinal shortstop Ozzie Smith bobbled.

“We helped him out tonight,” Gibson said. “That’s what being a team is all about. He’s pitched some great games when we haven’t hit. Let’s face it, pitching has carried us so far. But I think that will change.”

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It did Friday night against Cardinal starter Danny Cox, who allowed 4 runs in 6 innings, and reliever Scott Terry, who yielded Gibson’s 2-run home run to center field in the seventh inning.

The early offensive production was provided by hot-hitting catcher Mike Scioscia, who went 2 for 4 and had 2 RBIs. Scioscia has 6 RBIs in his last 3 games.

Hershiser’s sixth-inning grounder brought home Mike Davis with the go-ahead run, and Gibson gave the Dodgers a 6-3 lead with his second home run of the season.

Hershiser ran into problems in the ninth and was replaced by Jay Howell, who earned his second save despite giving up an unearned run.

“This definitely was my worst start,” Hershiser said. “But I went 8 innings and I still won. To start off 5-0, you got to have breaks like tonight. I knocked in a run, Gibby hit the home run and Jay Howell did a good job saving it.”

Hershiser struggled early and never really hit stride. He struck out a season-high 7 batters but also walked a season-high 5. Hershiser, who allowed 3 earned runs and 5 hits in 8-plus innings, still was strong enough to improve his record to 5-0.

The win, which kept the Dodgers (13-6) in first place in the National League West, tied Hershiser with Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets for the league lead in wins. It also is the first time Hershiser has won five straight games to open the season.

Before Friday night, Hershiser had allowed only 4 runs in 32 innings. But Cardinal slugger Bob Horner gave an indication that Hershiser’s domination might cease, hitting a bases-empty home run to lead off the second inning. And, in the fifth, Hershiser gave up two walks, which turned into runs thanks to Willie McGee’s triple to right field.

Hershiser began the ninth inning trying to notch his third complete game, which also would have tied him for the league lead. But he yielded a leadoff single to Tom Brunansky, who went to second when the ball bounced past Gibson in left field.

Manager Tom Lasorda then replaced Hershiser with Howell, who got Tony Pena to fly to right, moving Brunansky to third. Howell was one out away from ending it when pinch-hitter Jose Oquendo grounded to third baseman Jeff Hamilton, sent in as a defensive replacement for Pedro Guerrero.

Hamilton bobbled the ball halfway across the infield, allowing Brunansky to score to narrow the Dodger lead to 6-4. But Howell, after walking Vince Coleman, struck out Smith to earn his second save in as many opportunities.

So, even though Dodger pitching--and, late in the game, the defense--wasn’t at its best, the Dodgers still managed to win thanks to a healthy offensive output.

Despite his home run, only the Dodgers’ eighth this season, Gibson is hitting .246 and wondering what has gone wrong. However, Gibson is 7 for 17 with runners in scoring position.

“I’ve just been terrible, period,” Gibson said. “If I knew why, I wouldn’t be terrible. I’m constantly making adjustments, almost from at bat to at bat. I’ve just got to let my hands do it. I’ve been struggling a little bit.”

On a night when Guerrero (tendinitis in his right knee) returned to the lineup after missing one game, the Dodgers responded with 10 hits, Guerrero going 1 for 3.

“I’ve been fortunate that they’ve scored runs for me,” Hershiser said. "(Don) Sutton hasn’t had many breaks offensively. Tim (Leary), in his last outing, we didn’t score many runs. Same thing with (Tim) Belcher.”

Dodger Notes

The Dodgers have hit just 8 home runs in 19 games, a surprisingly low total considering the club fields a lineup that includes power hitters such as Pedro Guerrero (2 home runs), Kirk Gibson (2), Mike Marshall (1) and Mike Davis (0). Manny Mota, the Dodgers’ hitting coach, blames the shortage of home runs on the team’s overall slow start at the plate. “Nobody’s swinging well, except for Pete,” Mota said. “We’d rather have the guys go for the singles with men on base, which is what they’ve done. Sometimes, I’ve seen some of our guys swing for the home run and they end up over-swinging. But we’ve been winning without getting home runs, so I’m not worried.”

After Manager Tom Lasorda gave Davis the night off Wednesday, he broke his 0-for-14 streak Thursday with a single in his first at bat. But the struggling outfielder struck out twice later in the game. His average was .193 going into Friday’s game. Yet, Mota said that the night off helped Davis, that he has noticed changes in Davis’ swing and his approach to hitting. “Before, he was getting himself out by going after too many bad pitches,” Mota said. “He was too anxious. Sometimes it helps just to sit and watch from the bench. He’s got to make contact every time up. I think he’s doing a little better. It shouldn’t be much longer before he breaks out of it.”

Guerrero, in the lineup Friday night despite tendinitis in his right knee, received ultra-sound treatment on the knee Friday. Trainer Bill Buhler said the condition of Guerrero’s knee has improved since Thursday. “We couldn’t put him on the ultra-sound (Thursday) because the knee was too sore,” Buhler said. “He’s much improved.” . . . Dodger pitching prospect Ramon Martinez, playing for the club’s double-A team in San Antonio, improved his record to 2-1 Thursday night with a win over Wichita. Martinez, 20, struck out 11 and allowed 1 run and 6 hits in 6 innings. . . . Fernando Valenzuela (2-2) opposes Randy O’Neal (1-1) tonight at 7.


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