To maintain his armor of impenetrability on the mound during his scoreless inning streak, Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser could not do it alone. In addition to being in top form all the time, Hershiser has had help from various sources.
Friday night, in extending his streak to 49 innings and closing in on Don Drysdale's record of 58 scoreless innings in 1968, Hershiser first was aided by umpire intervention and later by a three-run home run from utility man Mickey Hatcher.
It was Hershiser's fifth consecutive shutout. In doing so, the Dodgers reduced their magic number for clinching the National League West title to 2. If the Dodgers beat the Giants again today and the Cincinnati Reds lose to the Atlanta Braves, the Dodgers will have officially won the West.
Hershiser is now third on baseball's all-time list for consecutive scoreless innings. Drysdale is first with 58--in the last week, the league office has changed Drysdale's record from 58 to 58 innings, saying that part of an inning pitched by a starter does not count--and Walter Johnson with 55. Johnson also pitched in relief. Hershiser, who allowed 5 hits for his 23rd win, has just one start remaining, probably Wednesday night in San Diego. Barring extra innings or a later relief appearance, the best he can do this season is tie Drysdale. The league office said that the record will carry over, but with an asterisk.
If history does, indeed, repeat, then the controversial umpire's ruling that expunged an apparent Giant run in the third inning should not be totally surprising.
During Drysdale's streak, he had hit Giant batter Dick Dietz with a pitch with the bases loaded in his 45th shutout inning. The home plate umpire ruled that Dietz had not moved away from the pitch, so Drysdale was given a second chance and retired the hitter and continued on to pitch 58 scoreless innings.
Hershiser's streak appeared to be history at inning No. 43. With one out and Jose Uribe on third base and Brett Butler on first, Ernest Riles hit a ground ball to second baseman Steve Sax, who threw to shortstop Alfredo Griffin for the force play.
As Uribe crossed home plate, Butler's slide took out Griffin, whose throw sailed over first baseman Tracy Woodson's head for an apparent 1-0 Giant lead.
But second base umpire Paul Runge ruled that Butler had interfered with Griffin, and the television replay showed that Butler had swung his arm into Griffin's leg. Hence an inning-ending double play, and the run was taken off the scoreboard.
Butler bolted from the dugout in protest, and Giant Manager Roger Craig spent 5 minutes arguing with Runge. In the meantime, Dodger players had already headed off the field and into the dugout.
Given the reprieve from Runge, Hershiser retired the next nine batters. But the Giants threatened in the seventh inning until Manager Roger Craig made a curious move, replacing Robbie Thompson with pinch-hitter Francisco Melendez with runners on first and second and one out.
Melendez is left-handed rookie hitting just .190 since being recalled from triple-A. Thompson, a right-handed hitter, was hitting .266 entering Friday night's game. Hershiser forced Melendez to ground back to the mound. He turned and threw to Griffin at second base. Griffin completed the double play, and Hershiser had been rescued again.
In completing the seventh inning without yielding a run, Hershiser passed Carl Hubbell (in 1933 with the New York Giants) and G. Harris White (in 1904 with Chicago White Sox) on the list for most consecutive scoreless innings. Both pitchers had 45 scoreless innings.
The Dodgers' offense floundered most of the night against Atlee Hammaker until Hatcher, filling in for Kirk Gibson, hit a 3-run home run in the eighth inning. It was Hatcher's first home run of the season.
Despite having just four hits off Hammaker through seven innings, the Dodgers had two aborted scoring opportunities.
A fifth-inning chance ended when Mike Marshall made an error in base-running judgement, breaking from second to third base on a ground ball. He was thrown out.
In the seventh, the Dodgers had runners on first and second with one out after John Shelby singled and Jeff Hamilton reached on Ernest Riles' throwing error. But Rick Dempsey grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Even withhout much of an offense and even with Hershiser admittedly not totally at his best, he still was able to record his fifth straight shutout and now seriously threaten Drysdale's record. Dodger Notes
Kirk Gibson, who has only 2 hits in his last 27 at-bats, was not in the starting lineup, apparently because of his slump. Gibson is getting treatment for chronic hamstring soreness, but assistant trainer Charlie Strasser said that Gibson is fit enough to play. . . . Catcher Mike Scioscia, who suffered a badly bruised left hip Thursday night in a collision with San Diego's John Kruk, remained in Los Angeles Friday and underwent X-rays, which showed no fracture of the pelvic bone. Strasser said that Scioscia is expected to rejoin the Dodgers in San Francisco for today's game, though it is not known when he will return to the lineup.
USA Today ran an item Friday that Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda had set his playoff pitching rotation. The newspaper reported that Orel Hershiser would pitch Game 1, John Tudor Game 2, Tim Leary Game 3 and Tim Belcher Game 4. Lasorda angrily denied the report. "How can I decide and set the pitching when we haven't even clinched (the Western division title) yet?" Lasorda asked. "When we win it, we'll think about it." But Lasorda apparently has set up the rotation so that Hershiser and Tudor will pitch games 1 and 2, respectively, and Leary is expected to pitch the third game. Lasorda, however, may bring back Hershiser on 3 days' rest to pitch Game 4 and use Belcher in Game 5. He wasn't saying Friday.