THE WORLD SERIES : OAKLAND ATHLETICS vs. LOS ANGELES DODGERS : Dodgers in Need of Some Insurance, and It’s No-Fault
This being the San Andreas Series, played at the North and South ends of that big crease, you wouldn’t expect the play to be faultless.
So far, the games have been a second-guesser’s paradise of debatable strategy, bobbles, botches and bonehead plays.
Tuesday’s klassic komedy konfrontation was no exception.
Mark McGwire finally put the Dodgers out of their misery with a line drive home run in the bottom of the ninth, off Pine Tar Jay Howell.
Jay was clean this time. It was no tarry, tarry night in the Oakland Coliseum. And you can’t really blame Howell. According to the law of averages, the mighty Bashers were destined to hit another home run some time this month.
Besides, there was no sense drawing this game out. During the top of the ninth, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda paced the dugout, picked up a bat and started swinging it.
The Dodger offense had come to this? Just about. The power in the lineup had been dimmed to about 7 watts, with Kirk Gibson out with his multiple injuries and Mike Marshall forced out in the fourth inning by a flare-up of his back problems.
That left the Dodgers with a lineup that will live in World Series infamy. Danny Heep took over the cleanup spot for Marshall. That gave the Dodgers a batting order that during the regular season produced 36 homers (6 fewer than Jose Canseco) and a .247 batting average.
The third and fourth batters, Mickey Hatcher and Heep, hit a combined 1 home run during the season. If this was the meat of the lineup, it was very lean meat.
You’ve heard of Murderers Row? This Dodger lineup couldn’t get arrested for jaywalking.
When the Dodgers did put together a rally, loading the bases with no outs in the sixth, the Dodgers surrendered weakly. This looked like a good spot for Gibson and his magic bat to make an appearance, but Lasorda stuck with Mike Scioscia and Jeff Hamilton, and they fouled out and bounced into a force play.
Gibson had slammed the ball all over the park the day before in batting practice, and he would have earned his salary Tuesday with a base hit, even if he got thrown out at first base trying to stretch a triple into a single.
Not that the A’s played superlative ball. Left fielder Luis Polonia made a throw that would cause a Little Leaguer to lose his sno-cone privileges.
He charged John Shelby’s single to shallow left in the sixth inning and fired a rainbow throw home, allowing Shelby to take second, even though the lead runner, Danny Heep, made no move to do anything but pull up at third.
That could have been costly, when Mike Davis walked to load the bases, but then the L.A. guys bled Dodger blue trying to get that tiebreaking run across.
The A’s got their first run with the aid of an ill-advised throw to second by Scioscia. The run was earned but who knows whether it would have scored had Scioscia held the ball instead of double-pumping and firing into center field on Glenn Hubbard’s steal.
Scioscia wasn’t the only frustrated Dodger. He and two teammates went down on called third strikes, and Alfredo Griffin struck out trying to bunt a third strike.
This was not a pretty offense.
The optimists will argue that all things happen for the best, and it’s probably best that the Dodgers finally lost a game.
Not only would nobody have believed the Dodgers taking a 3-0 Series lead featuring a batting order only an expansion club could love, but you have to have some compassion for the city of Oakland.
This appearance on national television means a lot to the locals. They busted open the municipal piggy bank to finance a citywide clean-up campaign, to show the city in its best light.
The stadium groundkeepers performed their pregame infield grooming wearing tuxedos. The A’s were resplendent in their wedding-gown white home uniforms.
This was a night for civic pride.
Oakland is a city with a combination inferiority complex and identity crisis. Tony Bennett never left so much as his toothbrush in Oakland.
There seemed to be some hurt feelings when the Dodgers elected to stay at a hotel in downtown San Francisco instead of taking advantage of Oakland hospitality.
This was a city and a team crying for respect. After all the excitement over the Bash Brothers this season, it would have been truly devastating if the swingin’ A’s had gone down in straight sets.
Their 104 wins would have meant nothing. You get a check for winning the Akron Open. You get your name carved in granite for winning the Masters.
The A’s chances tonight depend a lot on whether or not the Dodgers can wedge a real bat or two into their Toothpick Lineup.
Gibson has more needles in him than a porcupine, and now Marshall will have to go to the medicine chest. If there’s anything left, John Tudor, who started and lasted 4 outs Tuesday before his arm gave out, would like a shot. Considering his hip, make it a double.
At least now we’ve got a semblance of a series.
Questions will be answered tonight.
Was Oakland’s 2-run outburst an aberration? Can the Dodgers bounce back tonight? Can they field 9 players? Can Kirk Gibson pinch-stand? Should both teams take a week off and go to Florida for spring training?