Dodgers’ West Title Quest Stalls After Mets Make the East Official : Martinez’s Home Runs Lift Pesky Padres Over L.A., 5-4
Despite these unplanned delays in clinching the National League West title, the Dodgers’ confidence is hardly as deflated as those beach balls routinely apprehended by Dodger Stadium ushers.
The Dodgers’ stiff upper lip did not appear to be trembling Thursday night, perhaps because they are secure in the knowledge that all they need to clinch the title is a combination of 3 Dodger wins or Cincinnati losses with 10 games to play.
Yet they have stagnated in the last two days, courtesy of those pesky San Diego Padres. The Padres, behind Carmelo Martinez’s eighth-inning home run off reliever Alejandro Pena--Martinez’s second homer of the game--posted a 5-4 win over the Dodgers before a crowd of 30,074.
“They just put us on hold a day, Lasorda,” second baseman Steve Sax predicted afterward in Manager Tom Lasorda’s office.
Actually, the Padres, who won two of three in the series, put the Dodgers on hold at least until Saturday. Now they must travel to often-hostile Candlestick Park to begin a three-game series with the San Francisco Giants.
News of the Reds’ victory earlier Thursday drew shrugs from the Dodger players, as if to suggest that the race is over. The Dodgers had a chance to reduce their magic number to 2 by beating the Padres. Instead, they beat themselves--with assists from Martinez and Padre starter Eric Show (15-11).
“We lost one game, just one game,” outfielder Mike Marshall said. “We played great the last two weeks. We aren’t slumping. We’ve got an 8-game lead with 11 (actually 10) to play.”
Although they had home runs from Marshall in the first inning and John Shelby in the seventh, the Dodger offense could not provide the knockout blow against Show, despite getting 11 hits.
Kirk Gibson has just 2 hits in his last 27 at-bats, and Marshall stranded a runner on third base in the sixth inning. Alfredo Griffin led off the eighth with a single but was picked off. Later, Marshall and Shelby stranded runners in scoring position.
Defensively, it wasn’t much better. Two of the four runs allowed by starter Tim Leary were unearned.
Leary, who did not get the decision, was effective except for yielding Martinez’s first home run. And Pena, who had not allowed a baserunner in his last eight innings, wound up the loser when he gave up Martinez’s second homer. The ball barely cleared the left-field fence, just out of reach of the leaping Gibson, who pounded his glove against the fence.
“I should have caught it,” Gibson said.
The Dodger loss was compounded by the loss of catcher Mike Scioscia, who bruised his left hip in a second-inning home-plate collision with the Padres’ John Kruk. The severity of Scioscia’s injury is not known, and the Dodgers listed him as day-to-day after he was examined Thursday night.
If you thought Scioscia was hurting after the collision, you should have seen the other guy. Kruk, who is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 210 pounds, strained a ligament in his left knee and also cut the knee upon impact with Scioscia, who is 6-2, 219 pounds. Kruk may be out for the season.
Kruk was ruled safe, prompting a protest from Lasorda. Padre Manager Jack McKeon said the collision inspired his sluggish team. McKeon criticized Scioscia’s habit of blocking the plate while waiting to receive the ball, calling it illegal. That is an old argument, but McKeon revived it.
“I want to thank Mike Scioscia for waking us up,” McKeon said. “He got our guys good and mad. You can’t block the plate like that without the ball. He does it all the time and gets away with it.
“But look what happened to him. That’s fine. If he wants to take those kinds of chances in a pennant race . . . I’d like to thank him.”
After viewing the replay, Scioscia said he did not tag Kruk before the Padre outfielder touched the plate, as Lasorda had argued. He did say, however, that he had possession of the ball before Kruk reached the plate.
“I tried to stay in after that, but I knew I was hurt,” Scioscia said. “His knee came up and hit me in the hip. I wasn’t as square (to the plate) as I should have been.”
The Padres, naturally, took the loss of Kruk hard. But at least for one night, it worked out best for them. Martinez responded with his 16th and 17th home runs of the season and added an infield single.
Martinez’s first home run, a bases-empty shot in the sixth inning off Leary, gave the Padres a 4-3 lead. But Show did not protect it for long.
Show, who had held the Dodgers scoreless since a three-run first, gave up a solo home run by switch-hitter Shelby that tied it, 4-4, in the seventh. Eight of Shelby’s nine home runs this season have been hit left-handed.
Things dissolved for the Dodgers after the first inning, which was their most impressive show of force in a while. They scored their first run when Griffin came home on Gibson’s deep fly to center field.
That near home run was a precursor to Marshall’s 400-foot, two-run shot to the deepest part of the stadium. It was the second home run in as many games for Marshall after a drought that dated back to an Aug. 19 game against the Montreal Expos.
Neither Gibson nor Marshall would produce the rest of the night.
Disregarding his towering home run, Marshall said, “I stunk at the plate.” Gibson struck out twice, the second time with Sax on third in the sixth.
“I’m just struggling myself,” Gibson said. “There’s no excuses. It just happened.”
Asked if he and his Dodger teammates are just too eager to clinch the West title, Gibson shrugged and said: “I don’t think so.”
Dodger pitching coach Ron Perranoski, without confirming that Orel Hershiser will be the Dodgers’ starting pitcher in the first game of the playoffs, said Thursday that he wanted to adjust the rotation a week ahead of time so that the pitchers would be acclimated to the days between starts before the playoffs. “It’s better to do it this week than next week,” Perranoski said. “It’s better to have Orel pitch on three days’ rest (tonight) than next week.” . . . The Dodgers canceled their meeting to divide playoff money that originally was scheduled for Thursday night. “Too many superstitious guys on this team,” Dave Anderson, the team representative, said. “We’ll do it the day after we clinch.” The players did meet, however, to discuss playoff ticket requests and dealing with the expected increased media coverage during the playoffs. . . . Rookie Mike Devereaux, who singled in the game-winning hit in the 10th inning of the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader, called it the biggest hit of his career. “I’ve never had a game-ending hit,” Devereaux said. “Last year, I had a game-winning hit, but it wasn’t the same. This year, we’re in the pennant race and the games mean more.” Devereaux, a triple-A All-Star, had only 33 at-bats entering Thursday night’s game. “I hope that I might (get to play more). I can’t do anything unless I get to play in that situation.” . . . Fernando Valenzuela threw his second simulated game Thursday. He pitched three innings and received good reviews from Perranoski and several players who hit against him. However, neither Valenzuela nor Perranoski would speculate about whether Valenzuela would test his left shoulder in a game this season. Devereaux said Valenzuela pitched as if he is ready to return. “I’ve never hit against him, but he looked like he could get hitters out. His fastball was working well.” . . . As expected, all seven Dodger coaches--Perranoski, Joe Amalfitano, Bill Russell, Manny Mota, Ben Hines, Mark Cresse and Joe Ferguson--have signed contracts for next season.
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