The last time Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser worked here, he broke a record considered so unbreakable that he asked to leave the game early so he and record-holder Don Drysdale could share it.
Hershiser returned to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium Monday night, only this time he didn't have to worry about asking to leave the game. He was told.
The San Diego Padres, the final victims during Hershiser's 59 consecutive scoreless innings last fall, battered him for five runs in a span of six batters en route to a 5-1 victory before a crowd of 25,952.
On Sept. 28, 1988, two days after the Dodgers clinched the National League West Division title here, Hershiser set the record by lasting 10 scoreless innings against the Padres. Monday night he lasted only six innings, giving up five runs (two earned) on seven hits, including Shawn Abner's first home run in more than a year and Jack Clark's ninth homer three batters later.
"What did I notice that was different this year?" Hershiser asked. "Well, I noticed the clubhouse carpet was different. I guess they had to replace it last year after we doused it with champagne. Other than that . . . "
Well, there's the Dodger offense. As bad as it seemed at times last year, it was never this bad.
Against Padre starter Eric Show, they struck out eight times, Show's season high, and managed only six hits. After loading the bases on walks in the fifth, and failing to score when Willie Randolph's two-out sinking liner was caught by Abner, they managed to get only one runner past second base, on Mike Davis' homer, his third, in the sixth inning.
One form of help arrived early Monday afternoon in the form of minor league hitting instructor Reggie Smith, who will work for a couple of days with John Shelby, who went hitless in three at-bats Monday to fall to .159.
"I'm a switch-hitter like John, and maybe I can shed some light on some things," said Smith, who played for the Dodgers from 1976-81. "Maybe I can say something in a different way, maybe doing something that will get him going."
By the way some of the light-hitting Padres were hitting Monday, you would have thought Smith showed up to work with them. Start with two out in the fifth and Hershiser gliding with a two-hit shutout. Luis Salazar hit a spinning ball to second baseman Randolph, who watched it bounce in and around and out of his glove for an error, only his third of the season.
But after what happened next, no one would want to blame all this on Randolph. Up stepped Show, batting .194. Hershiser ran the count to 2-and-2 before leaving a pitch out over the plate that Show beat into the ground for a 25-hop single up the middle.
"We could use a few of those balls like the pitcher hit," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda lamented.
Up stepped Abner, who has only been up from triple-A Las Vegas for a week, and was hitting .158 (3 for 19) with four career homers. One bad curveball later, on an 0-1 pitch, he had five and the Padres had a 3-0 lead. It was his first homer since May 16, 1988, at which time he took the New York Mets' Dwight Gooden deep.
"Maybe we'll just save him for the big pitchers," Padre Manager Jack McKeon joked.
Hershiser didn't see the humor.
"It was a good curveball, but not a good 0-and-1 curveball--it should have been on the black or in the dirt," he said. "I know that anybody can hit a homer in this ballpark. I even gave up one to (slap-hitting Padre infielder) Tim Flannery here."
Abner agreed about the mistake.
"That's all it was, a mistake," Abner said. "He gave me something I could hit."
After Hershiser struck out Roberto Alomar to end the inning, he was in deep water 10 minutes later when he allowed a single to Tony Gwynn to lead off the sixth. In the first inning, Hershiser had stopped Gwynn on a groundout after Gwynn had reached base nine consecutive times, a Padre record.
Two pitches after Gwynn's pay-back, Clark hit a home run to left field, nearly beaning an usher in the third row of seats.
"That was the game in those two innings, a capsule right there," Lasorda said.
After not allowing a homer in his first eight starts, Hershiser has allowed six homers in his last seven starts, including the one to Abner and a couple of singles-hitting Cincinnati Reds (Lenny Harris, Ken Griffey).
"I'll give up a couple of home runs and then pitch a shutout and then give up two more," said Hershiser, who is 8-6 with a 2.42 ERA.
Ping-Pong is also a good description for the Dodger offense, which showed its worst face in the fifth, when Shelby and Alfredo Griffin drew walks, Hershiser bunted them to second, and then Kirk Gibson, batting leadoff again, was intentionally walked to bring up Randolph.
Randolph ran the count to 3-and-0 before Show managed an outside strike that Randolph thought was a ball. Randolph punched the next pitch, shooting it to left field . . . but directly at Abner.
"When you're going good, maybe that hit falls in," Lasorda said. "We have two runs and Eddie Murray is coming up. Shoot, when you are going good, you get a little dinker over second base. When you don't hit, it changes around the game."
Not only games, as the Dodgers are finding out as they fall 6 1/2 games behind first-place San Francisco in the West. But seasons.
Nine months and three operations after helping the Dodgers to last season's championship, it appears pitcher John Tudor is ready to return to active duty. The left-hander made a successful rehabilitation start for Class-A Bakersfield Sunday night. In 6 2/3 innings against San Bernardino, he allowed two runs (one earned) on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts. In 11 rehabilitation innings, he has allowed two earned runs. Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president, said a decision could be reached as early as today, depending on how well Tudor's arm has recovered from Sunday's work. "It was all very encouraging, from everything we've seen and heard," Claire said.
Expect another pitching move Wednesday when left-hander Ray Searage is eligible to come off the disabled list, where he has been since May 31 with back spasms. Searage will throw a simulated game here today to give trainers another look. If he comes back, right-handers Tim Crews and John Wetteland are the leading candidates for demotion. But Searage might get a rehabilitation assignment, giving the Dodgers time to work a trade or figure out another way to shuffle things around. . . . Mickey Hatcher came off the disabled list, as expected, Monday, his strained left hamstring sufficiently healed. Meanwhile, Tracy Woodson was placed on the disabled list with a sprained right quadriceps muscle.