The Dodgers knew what could happen. They had heard the tales of the Oakland Athletics’ apocalyptic offense, impenetrable defense and pitching arsenal. Like survivalists in Montana, they said they were prepared.
But who could possibly have warned the A’s of this improbable Dodger onslaught, so swift and decisive as to seem almost unreal?
Sunday night, in Game 2 of the World Series before 56,051 fans at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers used the pitching of Orel Hershiser, the hitting of Orel Hershiser plus others and the tenacious attitude of Orel Hershiser for a 6-0 victory over the A’s that gives L.A. a 2-games-to-none lead.
“We’ve got a long way to go in this Series,” said right fielder Mike Marshall, who supported Hershiser’s 3-hit shutout with a 3-run home run and a triple. “If we win 2 more, we can celebrate.”
The Dodgers, it seems, are for real. Having put the favored A’s in a 2-game hole heading to the Bay Area for Game 3 Tuesday night, they can no longer use the element of surprise as one of their weapons.
That is all right with the Dodgers. They still have Hershiser, whose status as a folk hero reached almost the magnitude of Kirk Gibson’s in a performance that makes Hershiser the leader in MVP voting for most versatile player.
Not only did Hershiser improve his amazing run to just 3 earned runs allowed in his last 93 innings, he equaled the hit total of the vaunted A’s with 2 doubles and a single, and had 1 run batted in.
Of such stuff legends are made. Hershiser does not have Gibson’s flair, spiked hair or carnivorous stare, but he can be just as intimidating. And Hershiser’s effort Sunday night was just as important to the Game 2 victory as Gibson’s dramatic 2-run home run in Game 1.
Lasorda called Hershiser’s stretch of sustained excellence, which included a shutout against the New York Mets last Wednesday in Game 7 of the National League championship series, the best he has ever seen by a pitcher.
“It’s an unbelievable accomplishment,” Lasorda said. “He is, without a doubt, an outstanding pitcher. He broke (Don) Drysdale’s record (for consecutive scoreless innings) and, had the regular season kept going, who knows how many goose eggs he would have put up there.”
So, all right, the guy can pitch. But what’s with that offense?
While Hershiser was easily handling the A’s muscular lineup of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Dave Henderson, who combined to go 0 for 11, the ectomorphic Dodger starter was hammering A’s pitchers.
In the Dodgers’ breakthrough third inning against loser Storm Davis, Hershiser singled and scored the Dodgers’ first run. Turns out, it was the only run he would need.
An inning later, Hershiser slashed a double down the right-field line to score Alfredo Griffin from first base for the Dodgers’ sixth run against Davis.
When Hershiser doubled again in the sixth inning off reliever Curt Young, it was the first time since 1924 that a pitcher had 3 hits in World Series game.
You would think that all of his hits, plus offensive support from Marshall, Franklin Stubbs and Mickey Hatcher, would make Hershiser relax and coast through the latter stages of this one. But that’s not why Lasorda calls him Bulldog.
Hershiser said he felt more pressure not to let up in the face of good fortune.
“When something positive happens, like (the Game 1) win or my hitting, that puts the monkey on my back. I didn’t want to leave here with a split and have it be my fault. I didn’t want to blow a 5-0 lead, either. It’s a burden I’m carrying.”
That’s not all Hershiser was carrying Sunday night.
In his back pocket was a laminated sheet of paper, about the size of a credit card, with all his information about A’s hitters. Before the start of the game, Hershiser took Doug Harvey, the umpire crew chief, and plate umpire Durwood Merrill aside and told him what he had in his possession and not to panic if he referred to it occasionally.
“It was my cheat sheet, but I won’t say what was on it,” Hershiser said. “I referred to it 2 or 3 times.”
Whatever information Hershiser gleaned from scouting reports must have helped, because the only A’s hitter who could figure him out was Dave Parker, who accounted for all 3 hits.
Maybe it was just another dose of Hershiser’s dominance, but the A’s certainly have picked a bad time to segue into a team slump. Since Canseco’s resounding grand slam off Tim Belcher in the second inning of Game 1, the A’s have just 7 hits--1 extra-base hit--in 16 innings.
Although a Hershiser shutout has become a common occurrence, Dodger players have not become blase about it.
“He’s capable of doing this every game,” catcher Mike Scioscia said of Hershiser, who disposed of the A’s in 107 pitches.
Added Marshall: “When we walk on the field with Orel on the mound, we rise to the occasion. Everybody gets up when No. 55 is pitching. We rise to the occasion. Alfredo and (Steve) Sax made some great double plays, and we played well behind him. We just have more confidence.”
McGwire, 0 for 6 in the series, hit into both double plays after Parker singles.
The Dodgers’ fifth-inning double play was perhaps their most spectacular of the season. McGwire hit a hard grounder deep in the hole between shortstop and third base. Griffin fielded the ball and, on the run, made a well-aimed, side-armed throw to Sax at second. Fighting off the oncoming Parker, Sax made the turn at second and completed the double play.
“Alfredo gave me a great ball to deal with,” Sax said. “It was right there. It was a little difficult to make that play with that running condominium (Parker) coming at me. Parker yells at you, too, when he’s sliding, so it’s a little tough.”
Though Hershiser said he was winded, not tired, there was the slightest hint Sunday that Hershiser’s seemingly indefatigable right arm might wear out.
The first sign came in the third inning. Hershiser was breezing along with 2 out and 2 strikes on Davis, when he suddenly walked off the rubber and seemed to be fussing with his right leg. He shook it, then did a quick knee bend. Scioscia came to the mound, and Hershiser eventually went back to work and struck out Davis.
Once in the dugout, Hershiser said he received an ammonia treatment from trainer Bill Buhler, and cold towels were applied to the Dodger pitcher’s face.
“It was an odd day for Los Angeles at this time of the year,” Hershiser said. “It was very hot. I sent Charlie Strasser (the assistant trainer) to get ammonia water and towels.”
Suitably revived, Hershiser then turned his attention to getting some runs.
Hershiser’s single up the middle began the third-inning rally that culminated with Marshall’s home run. Sax’s single to right then moved Hershiser to third, the Dodger pitcher beating the throw with a hook slide.
Up came Stubbs, who was 0 for 4 in Game 1. This time, his single to right scored Hershiser and moved Sax to third.
Hershiser said his initial fatigue came from running the bases. And, on this night, he ran with an injury-free Gibsonian abandon.
“This is the World Series, so you go all out,” Hershiser said. “When the ball went through, I was running as hard as I can. When I got to third, Joey (Amalfitano, the third base coach) said, ‘What are you doing?’ When I got to the dugout, Tommy had a few more gray hairs.”
Actually, Lasorda barely had time to notice Hershiser. He wanted more runs.
Hatcher hit a high chopper up the middle that somehow eluded both shortstop Walt Weiss and second baseman Glenn Hubbard and trickled into center field to score Sax and give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Weiss, who made an outstanding defensive play an inning earlier, dove in front of the base and just missed the ball. Hubbard then lunged for it and missed.
Stubbs went to third on the hit, and Hatcher took second on the throw to third.
With first base open, Oakland Manager Tony La Russa had the option of intentionally walking Marshall to load the bases for Shelby. Marshall had faced Davis three times before Sunday night, producing 2 hits. But, in the first inning, Marshall had looked bad striking out.
This time, it was Marshall’s turn to make Davis look bad. After taking 2 strikes, Marshall hit a high fly to left field. Parker reacted as if the ball would stay in play. He seemingly drifted back at a leisurely pace until, suddenly, he found his back to the fence.
All Parker could do was watch and Marshall’s blast cleared the fence and landed on the edge of the left-field pavilion.
Hershiser, an expert bunter who hit .129 with 6 RBIs in the regular season, finished the scoring with his double down the right-field line that sent Davis to the showers.
Will Lasorda think of using Hershiser as the club’s designated hitter?
“Yeah,” Lasorda deadpanned.
Then, he added: “That’s what makes Orel such a great athlete. He showed you tonight he could do it all. But I don’t worry about Orel’s hitting. I want him out there pitching.”
But Lasorda will have to wait until Game 5 Thursday night in Oakland before Hershiser pitches again. Given the Dodgers’ 2-0 lead in the series, it is conceivable that Hershiser could be pitching with an opportunity to clinch the World Series title.
“This team hasn’t taken anything for granted all season, going right back to spring training,” Scioscia said. “We’ve got 2 wins. Until we get 2 more, it’s anybody’s series. If you think too far ahead, you get in trouble.”