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There Is No Beating Behind Bush; Dodgers Lose to Montreal, 6-5

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Times Staff Writer

Flanked by a squadron of gray-suited Secret Service agents, Vice President George Bush made a campaign stop at the Dodger clubhouse Tuesday night, conversing with Manager Tom Lasorda and meeting the players.

But no, Bush did not discuss foreign policy issues, such as handling the Montreal Expos. Nor did he try to win the vote of Fernando Valenzuela, who isn’t a United States citizen, or help the Dodgers deal with problems coming from those on the left--left-handed pitchers, that is.

Bush apparently just wanted to catch a game, but he happened to pick the occasion of Valenzuela’s worst outing yet, a 6-5 loss to the Expos before a crowd of 34,309 (not counting the horde of gray suits), at Dodger Stadium.

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The Dodgers (21-13), whose National League West lead over Houston is now only 1 game, acquired the lead for Valenzuela twice in the early innings. But he lost it each time.

Valenzuela (3-4) left after 7 innings--as did Bush--having allowed 6 runs, 10 hits, 5 walks, while striking out 4. His earned-run average rose to 3.28, and he has allowed 33 walks in 8 starts.

Maybe some government intervention might have helped. Kirk Gibson did all he could against Expo left-hander Neal Heaton, hitting a home run in the first inning, slapping a triple and scoring in the third and, yes, even throwing out a runner at home plate in the third.

On this night, however, Gibson had a more accurate left arm than Valenzuela, which is a reason for concern among the Dodgers and a cause of unprecedented booing from some fans.

Valenzuela wasn’t alone. Boos slightly outnumbered cheers when Bush was introduced to the crowd in the seventh inning.

Like a candidate trying not to offend anyone, Valenzuela issued the standard rhetoric about the fans and his pitching failings.

“You have to take everything,” Valenzuela said. “I know it’ll change. I’ve been here eight years. If you do something bad, they boo. We have good fans, but sometimes they expect too much. We’re human. Everybody does bad sometimes.”

Valenzuela’s lack of control was evident in the 5 walks. But he thought a few of the 10 Expo hits against him were considerably more damaging. It was light-hitting second baseman Johnny Paredes, not Tim Raines or Tim Wallach, who did most of the damage. Paredes hit two singles, accounting for three runs.

Catcher Nelson Santovenia’s single in the seventh inning, scoring Raines for a 6-4 lead, was the finishing touch.

“I don’t think it was the walks as much this time,” Valenzuela said. “How many hits they get, 10? The base hits and walks did it.”

Valenzuela said his arm felt fine, that he had good stuff warming up.

“No excuses,” he said.

But catcher Mike Scioscia said he has been trying to get Valenzuela to be more aggressive against hitters, rather than try to nick the outside corners with his pitches.

“He is too fine early in the count,” Scioscia said. “That’s what has been plaguing him.” Heaton struggled early, too, but he retired 15 of the previous 16 batters he faced going into the ninth inning. The Dodgers then staged a ninth-inning rally that chased Heaton. Reliever Tim Burke gave up a run on Franklin Stubbs’ pinch single, but Steve Sax bounced into a game-ending double play.

It was Heaton’s first win in five starts and left the Dodgers with a 4-6 record against left-handed starters. Burke earned his fifth save, despite a shaky outing.

Although he was effective in the later innings, Heaton wasn’t nearly as dominating as other left-handers have been against Dodger hitters this season. The Dodgers did manage 5 runs and 8 hits off Heaton, which normally would be enough to win, given the Dodgers’ solid pitching.

While some fans were booing Valenzuela--”Those weren’t Dodger fans; those were (Expo) fans doing that,” Lasorda quipped--they gave Gibson three ovations.

The first came after his first-inning home run, which barely cleared the 330-foot sign down the left-field line. Gibson stopped at second base, thinking it might have been a ground-rule double, before being waved home. It was his seventh homer of the season, most on the club.

Plaudits next came in the top of the third, when he fielded Paredes’ run-scoring single and made a one-hop throw to Scioscia, blocking the plate, to nail Andres Galarraga for the third out. At the time, it kept the Expos from taking the lead.

Most of Gibson’s throws this season have been wide, high, lacking in distance and generally off target. He offers no excuses, other than tenderness in his left elbow.

“I’ve thrown poorly, I know that,” Gibson said. “I have had a problem with my elbow. I’m trying to do everything I can for it in the trainer’s room. I don’t want to come out of the lineup.

“Tonight, I got a bad hop, but I just relaxed and threw it. I’m not going to throw Tim Raines out, but maybe a guy like (Galarraga).”

A few minutes later, Gibson tripled to open the bottom of the third, eventually scoring on Mike Marshall’s grounder.

That gave the Dodgers a 4-3 lead, but Paredes and Santovenia and more walks were yet to strike Valenzuela, who vowed a return to form as soon as he can figure out what is wrong.

“All the time, I feel like I have good stuff, but that’s nothing,” Valenzuela said. “I want to feel bad and win the game. Next game, I will win.”

Gibson could take little solace in his home run, triple and noteworthy assist.

“We lost,” he snapped. “I’d rather take an 0 for 5 with 4 strikeouts and 2 errors and win. Maybe that’ll happen tomorrow.”

Asked about the Dodgers’ problems hitting Heaton, the sixth left-handed starter to beat the Dodgers this season, Gibson said: “He got us out when he needed to. Give him credit. We may not want to, but we have to.”

Dodger Notes

Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda gave Vice President George Bush an autographed bat, two Dodger warm-up jackets and a T-shirt. “You’ll have a lot of people waving to you if you wear that shirt out jogging,” Lasorda said. “You haven’t changed,” Bush said, laughing. Lasorda took Bush and his horde of secret service agents on a tour of the clubhouse and reminisced about Bush’s college baseball career at Yale. Bush watched the game from owner Peter O’Malley’s box.

Steve Sax, on the similarly dressed Secret Service agents surrounding the Dodger clubhouse awaiting Bush’s arrival: “That Secret Service doesn’t look so secret. They look obvious to me.” . . . Hitting coach Manny Mota said he has been working mentally more than physically with struggling shortstop Alfredo Griffin, hitting just .162 going into Tuesday’s game. “He plays every day, so I don’t like to do too much extra work with him,” Mota said. “We do more work mentally. I tell him not to let anything bother him and also, anytime you go up to the plate, think that you have the bases loaded.” Fourteen of Griffin’s 19 RBIs have come in bases-loaded situations.

Catcher Mike Scioscia still is battling a chest cold, but he was in the lineup Tuesday. . . . Ben Hines, who shares duties as hitting coach with Mota, missed Tuesday night’s game to attend the funeral of his sister, Lona Ramey. He will return for Friday night’s game against the New York Mets.

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