The bunt, Kirk Gibson explained, was his own idea.
It was not, he said, a concession to the hamstring strain behind his left knee. No excuses. He should be held accountable for it, he said.
All of it was a stand-up response from a player obviously in discomfort when he attempts to stand--let alone run and swing a bat.
Or as Gibson said Tuesday night:
“I think it’s obvious I’m not 100% and won’t be 100% tomorrow, but I’ll give it my best effort again. It’s do or die now.”
The National League’s Championship Series has reached Game 7 with the Dodgers batting .200 as a team and their principal power threat having problems putting weight on the leg that produces his power.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that he was hurting tonight,” New York Mets catcher Gary Carter said following a 5-1 victory that enabled his team to tie the championship series at 3-3.
“He seemed to be favoring the leg when he swung,” Carter said. “But I think the Dodgers idea was to have his presence in the game.”
It goes back to Gibson’s own theory that 60% of Kirk Gibson may be better than 100% of many players.
At least, that’s what Manager Tom Lasorda was hoping for when he kept Gibson in the lineup after they discussed his physical situation about 30 minutes before Game 6 started.
Gibson had aggravated the hamstring strain stealing second base in the ninth inning of Game 5. He had earlier hit a 3-run homer that proved decisive in a 7-4 victory, and earlier yet Monday hit a 12th inning solo homer that won Game 4, 5-4.
Those twin blasts became a distant memory, however, as Gibson hit 3 infield pop ups against David Cone Tuesday night after popping up a bunt attempt with no outs and two on in the first inning.
Cone had walked Steve Sax and Mickey Hatcher on 9 pitches when he popped the 1-strike bunt attempt back to the struggling pitcher, who struggled no more.
Sitting on a couch in Lasorda’s office later, Gibson said he would have bunted even if his leg was sound.
“He had walked the first two guys and I was going to give myself a strike and attempt to drive the ball,” he said. “But the pitch was in too much and not where I was looking for it.
“Then I thought about the bunt with the idea of getting us at least one run. I figured if I can get it down and beat it out we have the bases loaded and no outs. At worse, we have 1 out and runners at second and third.
“I’ve given myself up a lot this year. Mike Marshall and John Shelby have done a good job behind me.
“The pitch was probably too high to bunt, but I was capable of getting it down and confident I could. I took my time squaring away, but popped it up. What can I say? It’s probably the first time I’ve popped up a bunt in my life, and it was probably the key play of the game.
“I screwed it up and should be held accountable. I’m sure it gave Cone a breath of life, but I didn’t second guess myself then and I don’t now. I’m a good bunter, but the results were terrible.”
Cone got Marshall on a fly to left, struck out Shelby and allowed only 5 hits in his complete-game victory.
Said Lasorda: “Yes, I was surprised he bunted, but he was trying to do something beneficial for the team. He’s done it before. I’d defend anything he does because he’s done it for me all year.”
From the Mets’ perspective, first baseman Keith Hernandez said: “He’s an unselfish player. I’m sure if his leg had felt better he would have been up there hacking.
“But the way he was swinging it was obvious the leg bothered him. He almost stumbled a couple times.”
Gibson shook his head and said: “I have no excuses. It doesn’t matter how the leg feels. As I’ve said before when I was injured, the other team doesn’t care. They’re not going to send me any get well cards. The leg is just not an issue.”
Of course it is, and Gibson knows it.
He received a cortisone shot in New York Monday, iced the injured area on the flight to Los Angeles, iced it periodically Tuesday after picking up his father, a retired Detroit school teacher, at the airport, then tested it in batting practice.
“I felt pretty good in batting practice,” he said, “but I was hitting off (coach) Bill Russell then. I was hitting off David Cone in the game. Give him credit. I felt that if I got four at bats, I could center one or two pitches. It didn’t happen, but that’s why I played.
“My teammates, my fans and my manager were counting on me being out there. I told Tommy where I was coming from and he said he wanted me in there.”
Said Lasorda: “Kirk said he wasn’t 100% but felt he could run pretty good. I don’t want to hurt him, but if he can run at all, I want him in there. He was trying to be aggressive like everyone else, but he just didn’t make contact. Cone is a 20-game winner. He gets a lot of people out.”
Patiently responding to waves of questioners, Gibson said he would ice the injured area most of the night, probably not sleeping much. He will put a restrictive wrap on again, then test it in batting practice prior to Game 7. The bet is that he will play again, the Dodgers looking for that presence if not the power.