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Bat-Men From L.A. Fly High : Dodgers Trounce Cardinals, 12-6, as Gibson Homers

<i> Times Staff Writer</i>

That carnivorous stare returned to Kirk Gibson’s face here Sunday when talking about another Dodger hitting harvest. What it suggested was that, for all the runs the Dodgers recently have produced, their appetite for offense is simply insatiable.

“I want to be up at the plate now,” Gibson said. “I want to terrorize them. I want to make them hurt. But pitchers don’t want to see me or any of our guys right now.

“I come into the dugout and say, ‘I want more runs.’ You can’t ever be comfortable. When you’re going through a streak like we are, you want to get as many runs as you can. You can tell by the look in our eyes.”

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It is a look spreading among Dodger hitters. Not content with merely scoring enough to win, they want to pound opposing pitchers into submission. The Dodgers were at their most productive and merciless here Sunday afternoon in a 12-6 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

This offensive feast featured 16 hits--8 for extra bases--and was highlighted by a voracious 7-run seventh inning that turned a relatively close game into another Dodger rout.

Welcome recipient of all those runs was Dodger pitcher Don Sutton, who earned his second win in what clearly was the best outing of his second go-around with the Dodgers.

Sutton took an 11-2 lead into the eighth inning, basically unchartered territory for him, before a Cardinal uprising accounted for four runs against Sutton and relievers Brian Holton and Alejandro Pena. But even a big inning such as that couldn’t make much of a dent in the Dodger lead.

“Today is the kind of day I’d like to see a lot,” Sutton said. “You can basically leave out who pitched for us, because it doesn’t matter. The pitcher’s role is, get us off the field so we can hit again.”

The Dodgers (18-9), still atop the National League West by 2 1/2 games over Houston, came out swinging Sunday and didn’t stop until it was over. By the end of the day, the Dodgers improved their league-leading team batting average to .266.

The onslaught began in the first inning, when Gibson belted his fifth home run to right field against loser Jose DeLeon. It reached its peak in the epoch-making seven-run seventh, the club’s most productive inning since Sept. 21, 1985. And it was capped in the ninth inning with a 12th run, coming on a Steve Sax triple and Mike Davis’ double.

If you take away Cardinal pitcher John Tudor--and many Dodgers no doubt wish someone would after he pitched 13 hitless innings against them--the Dodgers finished the week having scored 61 runs and getting 67 hits.

When a team is producing at that rate, everyone is contributing. Sunday was no different, except maybe that Davis took a bigger role in this win.

Davis, hitting just .202 coming into the game, went 3 for 5. He singled in the third and fifth innings, then had a two-run triple in the seventh and the run-scoring double in the ninth.

Until having a talk with Gibson, however, the day did not begin promising for Davis. He struck out in the first inning, only moments before Gibson’s prodigious home-run to right field.

So, before coming to the plate for a second time, Gibson made a rather rudimentary suggestion that nonetheless made all the difference.

“Gibson told me just to relax my hands,” Davis said. “That’s it. Sometimes, when you have no reason why you aren’t hitting, there’s got to be something someone can notice. You know you’re doing it, but you don’t know it.

“Talking to someone else keeps everything in perspective. Today, I clicked.”

He wasn’t the only Dodger to do so. Gibson went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs to improve his average to .270 with 18 RBIs. Pedro Guerrero, the National League’s top hitter at .361, had an average day (for him)--2 for 5 with 1 RBI. But Mike Marshall went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs and the right-field platoon duo of Danny Heep and Mickey Hatcher combined for 3 hits and 3 RBIs.

“We have an arsenal that can beat you so many ways, whether it is hitting, pitching or what,” Davis said. “That’s why I think we’ll win the division. Hitting’s contagious and you saw that again today.”

The seventh-inning rally against DeLeon and reliever Steve Peters was memorable. It began when Gibson walked and stole second. Guerrero’s ground-rule double scored Gibson, then Marshall’s single chased DeLeon. Hatcher’s double, Davis’ triple and a double by Gibson turned it into a rout.

Sutton, meanwhile, had only occasional lapses in his first start since criticizing Manager Tom Lasorda for pulling after 4 innings in a game in which the Dodgers led. Sutton gave up a bases-empty home run to Luis Alicea--his first in the major leagues--in the third and another run in the fourth on Willie McGee’s double and Tom Brunansky’s single.

From there, though, Sutton pitched three scoreless innings and flirted with a rare complete game. But when the Cardinals loaded the bases with no outs in the eighth, Sutton was pulled in favor of Holton, who gave up a run-scoring single to Ozzie Smith and walked in another run. Pena also walked in a run and gave up another on a fly ball.

“What happened there shows that you can never get too many runs,” Lasorda said. “I didn’t like the look of that inning.”

But the Dodgers escaped without blowing a nine-run lead. Sutton was in good mood afterward, as were all the Dodger hitters.

“I think we’ve got very good team,” said Sutton, who allowed 4 earned runs and 6 hits while throwing 88 pitches over seven-plus innings. “Putting a club together is like pouring cement. It needs time to settle and you have to buff the edges off.

“This is what we’ve come up with.”

Dodger Notes

Don Sutton, 43, hinted after Sunday’s win that he has thought about retirement. Asked by a St. Louis television reporter when he might retire, Sutton gave a cryptic answer. “For the first time in my life, I have a timetable on my career. It’s nothing I want to discuss right now. Just say I want to pitch as long as I can.” Later, Sutton elaborated some. “I was on the bench on opening day when I thought about the timetable,” Sutton said. “I won’t say when. But soon we’ll sit down and talk about it. This isn’t the time.” . . . Mickey Hatcher’s bat, confiscated by umpire Joe West during Saturday night’s game, was X-rayed late Saturday and showed no cork implant. West had been suspicious because the bat’s black paint had come off the bat upon contact and there was a small bubble on the top of the bat. “I’m clean,” Hatcher said Sunday. “I said to West, ‘Hey, take all my bats. Most games I don’t need ‘em.’ When I got two strikes (in the fifth inning, when the bat was confiscated), I was tempted to ask him if I could use it for just one swing.” Hatcher said the black paint on the bat rubs off. To illustrate (literally), he scratched out his name on his locker with the knob of the bat. “I may have to go back to using brown bats,” Hatcher said.

Saturday night, Ken Howell pitched 4 innings for the Dodgers’ single-A team in Bakersfield and experienced some stiffness in his right shoulder, which Howell is rehabilitating after surgery this winter. Howell allowed one hit, one run, struck out four and walked one against Stockton, the Milwaukee Brewers’ single-A affiliate. He threw 67 pitches, the fastest of which was clocked at 93 m.p.h. . . . John Shelby, on the disabled list with a strained abdominal muscle, took 15 minutes of batting practice right-handed Sunday morning, considered a major step in his rehabilitation. Shelby told Dodger trainers that he felt no discomfort. “I’d say he’s close to coming off (the disabled list),” physical therapist Pat Screnar said. Fred Claire, the Dodgers’ executive vice president, met with Shelby after batting practice to discuss when he might be activated. When that happens, Mike Devereaux most likely will returned to the Dodgers’ triple-A team in Albuquerque.


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