Five pitches. What has taken the Dodger 170 games to create may have dissolved Tuesday night in 5 pitches.
Five fastballs. That’s all it took for the Oakland Athletics to safely flee, without a scratch, a Dodger bases-loaded, none-out tempest in the sixth inning.
Five strikes. That’s all the Dodgers will be seeing this morning as they read accounts of their 2-1 loss to the A’s in Game 3 of the World Series Tuesday, a loss that cut their edge to 2 games to 1.
“I’m not thinking about (Mark) McGwire or (Jose) Canseco or any of those guys right now,” Mickey Hatcher said. “All I can think about is that sixth inning. And man, it hurts.”
When these Dodgers are settling in for their 4-month naps next week, they may look back at those 5 pitches, and hurt might be the nicest word that comes to mind.
With the score tied, 1-1, Danny Heep led off the sixth against A’s starter Bob Welch with a double to left that perhaps could have been caught by Luis Polonia, who hesitated as he chased it down in the gap. John Shelby followed with a single to left. As Heep was stopping on third, Polonia, for whatever reason, threw the ball home. That enabled Shelby to go to second.
Mike Davis then drew a walk, and the Dodgers were all giggles. The A’s were all sweat.
“I was thinking maybe they would just score once,” A’s Manager Tony La Russa said. “You don’t even hope that they would get nothing.”
Five pitches later, and the Dodgers only hope that they can recover.
Come with us, now, on an amazing journey to ground zero, one filled with impatient swings and imposing questions and, ultimately, three outs.
First pitch .
Left-handed hitting Mike Scioscia comes to the plate, and left-handed relief pitcher Greg Cadaret comes in to face him. Considering that only 78 of Scioscia’s 408 at-bats this season were against left-handers, Manager Tom Lasorda would ordinarily pinch-hit Rick Dempsey.
But this was no ordinary game. One pinch-hitter (Heep) had already been used for the ailing Mike Marshall. Another pinch-hitter, Tracy Woodson, would be needed to replace Franklin Stubbs at first base when the A’s brought in their right-handed relievers.
“So if you pinch-hit Dempsey, you are left with (Kirk)Gibson and Jose Gonzalez,” hitting coach Ben Hines explained. “We figured Mike hangs in good against a guy like Cadaret, and he would be good later against (Dennis) Eckersley.
So up comes Scioscia, knowing that the scouting report on Cadaret is that he throws wild early. So he takes the first pitch. Strike on the outside corner.
Second pitch .
Scioscia had also taken a first pitch early in the game from Welch, and it had also been a strike. He was tired of being patient. He swung at a ball inside and weakly fouled it out to third baseman Carney Lansford.
“It was a borderline pitch,” Scioscia admitted. “I guess I was a little impatient.”
Third pitch. Up steps right-handed hitting Jeff Hamilton, and in comes right-handed reliever Gene Nelson. Walking around the dugout, talking with Lasorda and others, is the ailing Gibson. Could he have pinch-hit?
“What kind of question is that?” Gibson said later. “I was in a wheelchair the other night and I pinch-hit. I think I could do it now.”
“He told me he was ready,” Lasorda said. “But I didn’t want to come up short in the end.”
In other words, Gibson may have been saved for another ninth-inning homer.
So in comes the struggling, worried Hamilton, who just an inning earlier had his first hit of the series. He swings at the first pitch, and misses.
Fourth pitch .
Hamilton beats the ball into the ground to Lansford, who is playing in. He easily makes the throw home for the second out.
“That’s all I wanted, was a ground ball,” Nelson said. “I just wanted to do anything to get them to keep it on the ground.”
Hamilton frowned. “We’ve got to at least get one run in that situation. Shoot, we could have easily gotten two or three. A big inning.”
Fifth pitch .
Alfredo Griffin up, Nelson throws him a fastball away, Griffin taps it down to first base, end of inning.
Into their dugout run the A’s, rejuvenated and ready to win this game im the ninth inning.
“When something like that happens, it changes everything,” catcher Ron Hassey said. “Suddenly, there is emotion.”