The pain in Alejandro Pena’s stomach is gone now, the one that caused him to miss his first World Series 7 years ago. Pena was 22 and threw 95-m.p.h. fastballs, but you can’t pitch with a bleeding ulcer.
The pain in Alejandro Pena’s head, the one that gave him severe migraines in 1983, when he wound up in the bullpen and was shelled in a cameo appearance against the Phillies in the playoffs, is gone now.
The pain in Alejandro Pena’s shoulder, the one that caused him to undergo surgery in February 3 years ago, washed out the better part of two seasons and placed his career in jeopardy, is forgotten now.
It may not be gone, but it is something that Pena can live--and pitch--with. So Saturday night, while Pena was in the trainer’s room when Kirk Gibson killed all pain with his game-winning home run, it wasn’t because he was hurt. Pena was icing his arm after striking out two Oakland A’s--including Grand Slam Jose Canseco--in the top of the ninth.
And with one swing of Gibson’s bat, Pena had become the winning pitcher in his first Series appearance.
“Good job,” Dodger scout Mel Didier said, grabbing Pena’s hand.
“You pitched Canseco like we wanted you to--you went right after him.”
Pena acknowledged the compliment, but as Didier walked away, the pitcher said there was really no other way to go.
“I pitch Canseco like I pitch everybody,” he said. “I just gave it my best shot. Strength against strength.
“I think they have a great team, a powerful team. Everybody in their lineup hits, from the little men to the big guys. You got to pitch everybody tough.”
And for 7 innings Saturday, that’s what the Dodger bullpen did, shutting out the A’s on 4 hits and striking out 6.
All three Dodger relievers used by Manager Tom Lasorda--Tim Leary, Brian Holton and Pena--came into the game with more impressive hospital charts than bubble-gum cards.
Leary, who replaced Dodger starter Tim Belcher after the second inning and worked three scoreless innings, missed all of the ’82 season with an irritated nerve in his right shoulder. That was after straining a muscle in his right elbow in his big-league debut the season before, which shelved him for the rest of ’81.
Holton, who didn’t allow a hit in his two innings, had elbow surgery in 1983, then fractured his wrist at the end of the ’86 season.
Belcher, except for a strained right shoulder that limited him to 37 innings in Double-A in 1986, was relatively healthy, although he developed a new malady Saturday night, when he lasted just 14 batters and threw 71 pitches.
“A snowballing brain cramp,” he called it, and he wasn’t just referring to Canseco’s bases-loaded blast.
What upset Belcher more than anything else, he said, was the walk he issued to Dave Stewart after he had an 0-2 count on the A’s pitcher with one out and Glenn Hubbard on second.
“The way I pitched in the second inning, I should have walked off to the first-base dugout,” Belcher said, alluding to the fact that he had been A’s property before last season.
“I was keyed up and anxious, and usually I walk behind the mound and relax. But tonight I stayed right on the mound, got the ball back and toed the rubber.
“I started thinking, ‘I can’t walk him,’ or ‘I can’t hang a slider to him.’ I tried to do too much, make great pitches. I just went crazy.”
With Stewart, he said, he got him swinging on two high fastballs.
“Then I started thinking about (Carney) Lansford on the on-deck circle, and said, ‘I don’t want to strike (Stewart) out, I want him to hit a double-play ball.
“So I started squeezing the ball, threw three in a row down low, and I walked him. That’s stupid, walking a pitcher with an 0-and-2 count.”
He was much more self-forgiving on Canseco’s home run.
“That’s how he hits ‘em,” Belcher said. “Jose was pretty excited. He kind of grinned and flipped the bat, like he does. What do you do?
“You take your hat off to him.
“But for 2 innings, I looked terrible. Stewart didn’t look so good, either, but crazy things happen in this game.”
Belcher, who was back in his hotel room in New York when Gibson won Game 4 of the NL playoffs with a 12th-inning home run, was in the Dodgers’ video room when Gibson struck again Saturday night.
“I thought it was a pop-up when it left the bat,” Belcher said. “It left the bat with a funny trajectory.
“It came off his bat the same way in New York. He one-handed the ball, a back-door slider, a great pitch from a great pitcher.”