For eight innings Tuesday night, Dodger pitcher Tim Belcher was brilliant, giving up three hits and striking out a career-high 12 batters.
Later, though, he didn’t want to hear about it.
“Eight good innings ain’t . . . . if you can’t close them out,” Belcher said, warning radio reporters that his language would be full of expletives and, thus, unsuitable for their audiences. “And we didn’t do it.”
Indeed, the Montreal Expos scored four runs in the ninth inning, overcoming a three-run deficit to beat the Dodgers, 5-4, before a crowd of 25,336, the smallest of the season at Dodger Stadium.
Belcher, who hadn’t given up a hit since the fourth, gave up three straight singles to start the inning, then watched the Expos’ next four batters drive home the runs against relievers Jay Howell and Ray Searage.
Hubie Brooks lined a single to right field to make the score 4-2, Tim Wallach hit a sacrifice fly to left field to make it 4-3 and Mike Fitzgerald bounced a singled through the left side to tie the score.
Howell was the victim in all three circumstances, but Belcher told reporters that Howell was not to blame.
“It should have been my loss,” he said. “It shouldn’t have been Jay Howell’s. He shouldn’t have been put in that situation.”
How about Searage?
He replaced Howell and pinch-hitter Mike Aldrete promptly lifted a sacrifice fly to center, scoring pinch-runner Otis Nixon to make it 5-4.
And, after Tim Burke worked a scoreless ninth for the Expos, the Dodgers once again were a .500 team, their record standing at 24-24.
Had Belcher lost something?
“As the game goes on, you usually lose something,” he said. “Giving up three hits in a row in the ninth is losing a hell of a lot.”
Belcher, who was given a 7-0 first-inning lead in his last start, a 7-6 victory last Thursday night over the Philadelphia Phillies, settled this time for only a one-run first-inning advantage.
Eddie Murray banged a run-scoring double off the base of the wall in right field, chasing home Mike Davis from first base. Willie Randolph, who has hit safely in 20 of 23 games, led off the inning with a bouncing single through the middle, but was forced at second by Davis.
Davis scored again in the third after drawing a two-out walk. Kirk Gibson’s double off the wall in left-center field gave the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
The Expos cut the deficit to 2-1 in the fourth, when Raines lined a leadoff single to left, stole second and scored on a bouncing single through the right side of the infield by Brooks.
In the seventh, Davis lined a triple into the right-field corner, continuing a torrid hitting streak, and scored on a wild pitch, increasing the Dodger lead to 3-1.
Davis, whose fifth-inning single extended his hitting streak to eight games, is 15 for 31 during the streak.
Mike Scioscia drew a leadoff walk for the Dodgers in the eighth, moved to third on back-to-back singles by Jeff Hamilton and Alfredo Griffin, and then scored on a sacrifice fly to right by Randolph.
Meanwhile, Belcher sailed into the ninth, retiring 14 straight batters after giving up Brooks’ run-scoring single in the fourth.
He struck out 10 in the first five innings, and walked only two.
In the ninth, though, Tom Foley lined a single to right field, Andres Galarraga bounced a single through the middle and Raines lined a single to center.
“He was making pitches in the ninth like it was the early innings,” Scioscia said of Belcher. “No one hit the ball hard.”
But all three hit the ball safely.
Belcher trotted off to a warm ovation from the crowd.
But the Expos had the bases loaded with nobody out.
And the Dodgers had no one capable of bailing them out.
“It’s a shame to waste a great effort by Belcher,” Scioscia said.
Although the crowd of 25,336 was the Dodgers’ smallest of the season, it put them over the one-million mark in home attendance--they’ve drawn 1,009,898 in 25 dates--for the 32nd consecutive season. The Dodgers have not drawn fewer than 2 million since the 1972 season.