Randy O'Neal is one of those pitchers--mostly mediocre but, for a night, memorable--whom the Dodgers will not forget and will eagerly await meeting again.
A charter member of a select group that has earned a victory, if not respect, from Dodger hitters this season, the St. Louis Cardinals' right-hander was subjected to all kinds of abuse in Friday night's rematch before 49,194 fans at Busch Stadium.
The Dodgers more than made good on their vow of revenge, scoring a decisive early knockout of O'Neal and then continuing their attack on Cardinal pitching in a 10-2 win behind Mike Marshall's two-run home run off O'Neal and Alfredo Griffin's three-run triple off reliever Gibson Alba.
Fernando Valenzuela, the Dodger starter, earned a certain redemption of his own. A loser to O'Neal and St. Louis last week, Valenzuela (3-3) pitched his first complete game in six starts. He allowed five hits, walked four, struck out two and finished off the Cardinals in a surprisingly low (for him) 103 pitches.
Valenzuela pitched perhaps his best game of the season on the one night when he he could afford to make a few mistakes. That's because the suddenly rampaging Dodger offense gave him nine early runs leading to the fifth-inning demise of O'Neal, who came within one out of a two-hit shutout of the Dodgers a week ago today at Dodger Stadium.
"You got to figure, when's the last time that guy (O'Neal) has done that?" asked Manager Tom Lasorda, rhetorically. "He's been in the minors. He's had an arm problem. When he did that to us (in Los Angeles), you say, 'How can that be?' But it happens."
But it didn't happen again, mainly because the Dodger offense has emerged from early-spring hibernation. In the last four games--all wins--the Dodgers have totaled 38 runs and 47 hits.
Friday night's contributors included Steve Sax (2 for 3 with an RBI), who left in the fourth inning because of a chest cold; Kirk Gibson (2 for 3 with an RBI); Marshall (2 for 4, including his third home run in the last three games), and Griffin (2 for 5 with a bases-clearing triple).
Now that revenge has been achieved, Dodger players looked back at O'Neal's previous dominance last week as a one-time thing, a fluke of baseball nature. That also is the way they felt when San Diego pitcher Jimmy Jones and Atlanta's Zane Smith each logged shutouts against them.
"We all remember what he did to us in L.A.," Marshall said. "He did pitch well that night, but, also, we weren't swinging the bats very well at the time we faced him. But we kind of came on in the Pirate series.
"Up until the Pirate series, the only guys who were hitting were (Pedro) Guerrero and (Mike) Scioscia. In the past, we've relied on only a couple of hitters. It's not that way anymore."
It has not been that way for the past four games, at least. Continued solid pitching and the recent hitting resurgence have put the Dodgers (17-8) in first place in the National League West, 2 1/2 games ahead of the Houston Astros.
"Like I told you guys when you were writing that we weren't hitting, it'll come around," Lasorda said. "It did. I've talked to (Mike) Davis, Gibson, Alfredo. I said, 'Hey, just do your share. Don't try to do too much.' Naturally, they want to show people that we've made a helluva deal getting them, and they've been pressuring themselves."
Only recently have several of the new Dodgers started hitting as they have in previous seasons.
Gibson, who had a run-scoring double in a three-run third inning, has hit safely in seven straight games with a .360 average during that span. Davis now has five hits in four games since being moved from seventh to second in the order.
Then, there's the curious case of Griffin. Despite his .190 average, Griffin has 16 RBIs and a .296 average with runners in scoring position. On the four occasions this season that Griffin has hit in a bases-loaded situation, he has produced three triples and a single, knocking in 11 runs.
"Yeah, but what happened to the 12th runner?" Lasorda cracked.
Asked about his knack of hitting with runners on base, Griffin said: "This is a funny game. What can I say?"
Marshall's home run, his fourth, moved him ahead of Griffin into second place on the team in RBIs with 18. Guerrero, who had a run-scoring single in the first inning, leads the Dodgers with 21 in 25 games.
The recent surge of offensive might did not go unnoticed, or unappreciated, by Valenzuela. By his evaluation, Friday night's outing ranked as his second best, behind his 2-0 loss to Jones and the Padres April 14.
The difference? Oh, about 10 runs worth of offensive support.
"We had a good lead and that didn't hurt too much," Valenzuela said.
Fernando Valenzuela, who wore glasses for the final four innings in a start last week, did not wear them Friday night. Valenzuela warmed up in the bullpen while wearing the glasses but decided not to wear them in the game. "It felt funny. I could see the rims from the side," Valenzuela said. . . . Pedro Guerrero went 1 for 4, his National League-leading average dropping to .375. Mike Scioscia is hitting .377. . . . Mike Marshall, on his recent run of home runs: "I never think of home runs. I think about hitting the ball hard, getting a good pitch to drive. I feel good at the plate. When you play every day, it's so much easier. You get the rhythm." . . . Injured center fielder John Shelby (strained abdominal muscle) took batting practice from both sides of the plate, but assistant trainer Charlie Strasser said he is not sure when Shelby will be activated. . . . Pitcher Ken Howell, rehabilitating his right shoulder after off-season surgery, makes his first start of his 21-day rehabilitation assignment today for the Dodgers' single-A team in Bakersfield.