Dodger hitting, wildly fluctuating so far this season, reached a new low Friday night against pitcher Kevin Gross and the Philadelphia Phillies, and Los Angeles wound up a 2-1 loser before a crowd of 38,015 at the Dodger Stadium.
After being shut down by guys named Walk and Smiley the previous two nights in Pittsburgh, the Dodgers did not score a run off Gross until Mike Marshall homered to left field in the seventh inning. But despite threatening in the eighth and ninth, eventually chasing Gross. The Dodgers, for the first time this season, have lost three straight.
On a night when Dodger starter Tim Leary gave up only two runs through six innings and relievers Tim Crews and Brian Holton kept the Dodgers close, the offense could not produce.
Gross, who improved his record to 3-1, came within one inning of his third complete game when he gave up a leadoff double to Kirk Gibson in the ninth. Reliever Kent Tekulve was summoned and retired Pedro Guerrero and Mike Marshall before walking Danny Heep and forcing Mike Scioscia to pop up to end it.
It was only the Phillies' second save in three opportunities this season, Tekulve logging both.
Leary, despite yielding only a fourth inning home run to Juan Samuel and another run in the fifth when Gross drove in Craig James with what proved to be the game-winning run, was the loser. He gave up 8 hits in six innings, including an infield single and two bloop singles.
But Dodgers hitters would have been happy with hits of any kind. Gross, among the National League leaders in earned-run average, allowed only six hits and also received help from his defense.
In the seventh, James made a diving catch of a sinking liner hit by Guerrero. Marshall, the next batter, then hit a home run to left, his fifth of the season. Had Guerrero reached base, the Dodgers would have tied it.
But that wasn't the Dodgers' only rally. In the eighth, they had runners on first and second with one out and Mike Davis at the plate. Davis had run the count to 3 and 2 against Gross when Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda tried a double steal. Davis struck out and Franklin Stubbs was easily thrown out at third by Phillies' catcher Lance Parrish.
Then came the ninth and more opportunity and embarrassment for the Dodgers. Gibson slashed a double down the right-field line, but Tekulve worked out of it.
Each team was foiled in third-inning scoring opportunities, the Phillies stranding a runner at second and the Dodgers runners at second and third.
For the Phillies, second to last in the league in hitting entering Friday night's game, it was nothing new. For the Dodgers, who have been productive with runners in scoring position, it was somewhat surprising.
Philadelphia stretched a leadoff infield single to Steve Jeltz as far as they could without scoring. Jeltz hit a tricky grounder in the hole between shortstop and third base that Alfredo Griffin fielded. But Griffin lost his grip on the ball and could not make a throw.
Gross was unable to bunt Jeltz to second, but Jeltz made it anyway with a stolen base. Milt Thompson's grounder to second moved Jeltz to third, bringing up Phil Bradley with two out.
Bradley, just 3 for 31 with runners in scoring position, bounced the first pitch back to Leary to snuff out the rally.
The Dodgers fared little better in the bottom of the third. Gross had not allowed a hit before hanging a change-up that Scioscia punched into center field. One out later, Leary faked a sacrifice bunt and hit a chopper that bounced off the tip of Mike Schmidt's glove at third base for an single. Steve Sax's fielder's choice moved Scioscia to third and, after Sax stole second, the Dodgers had two runners in scoring position.
But Davis, lately the hottest Dodger hitter and 8 for 19 with runners in scoring position, was out in front of a 3-and-2 off-speed pitch and struck out.
After Samuel's bases-empty home run in the fourth broke the scoreless tie, the Phillies threatened again in the fifth and came away with another run for a 2-0 lead. Again, though, Leary worked out of a potential damaging inning by retiring Thompson and Bradley with runners on second and third.
With two out in the inning, Leary fell behind, 3 and 0 to Samuel, before striking him out on three straight pitches.
Still, Leary was trailing and the Dodger offense had yet to show signs of figuring out Gross. Before heading into the late innings, the Dodgers staged a modest threat in the sixth inning but left with nothing to show for it.
It began promising, though. Jeff Hamilton, pinch hitting for Leary, lined a single to left. It was Hamilton's first hit in 13 at bats. He had been one of only four major-league players who have not had a hit this season. But Hamilton never made it off of first base, even though the Dodgers hit Gross hard. Sax flied to right for the first out, but then the Dodgers hit Gross hard but with no payoff. Davis lined sharply to left for the second out and Gibson lined deep to center to end the inning.