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Dark Victory for Dodgers: Tudor Is Hurt : Left-Hander Quits After 3 Innings; Gonzalez Stars

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

The Dodgers got three shutout innings out of John Tudor but that development figures to be less encouraging than you might think. In fact, Tudor’s comeback from elbow surgery appears to have been stalled again.

Tudor, in only his second start since elbow surgery last October, left the game with pain in his left shoulder. This was not a new pain and it is apparently unrelated to the reconstructive work that was done on his elbow. It’s just that each time out, it hurts a little more.

Tudor’s pain was mostly private as the Dodgers got terrific relief from the bullpen and three RBIs from Jose Gonzalez to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2, Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

This is a two-game winning streak--the Dodgers are undefeated in July--and the second game in a row that Gonzalez has produced the winning run, one way or another. The news might have been the emergence of Gonzalez, whose two-run homer Sunday proved an improvement over his bad-hop winner of the day before.

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Afterward Manager Tom Lasorda was enthusiastic about Gonzalez in particular, saying: “He’s putting the bat on the ball now and he’s more disciplined.”

About the run production from the lower half of the batting order in general, Lasorda said: “Now if we can just get some runs from the other guys.”

And about another nice three innings of relief from rookie John Wetteland, Lasorda said: “That was a big performance today, one we needed desperately.”

However, Lasorda avoided the question of Tudor, the Dodgers’ $1.3 million man, saying he’d know more today after Dr. Frank Jobe examined him. “I just don’t know,” he said.

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Nobody does. Tudor felt the shoulder go in the second inning, on a 3-2 pitch to Andy Van Slyke that the Pirate took for ball four. He got out of that inning after loading the bases but retired to the dressing room to think matters over.

“I came in here and thought about it,” he said, “to try and decide what to do. I thought I’d go back for another inning.”

Tudor appeared to sail through the third, giving up only a single to John Cangelosi. But he decided to give it up.

“It didn’t make a lot of sense to go back out when, if I give up two or three hits, we can lose the ball game,” he said. “Plus, I didn’t have anything on the ball. I was down to all change-ups.”

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Afterward Tudor seemed to question his value to the team, if all he could provide were three or four innings. Four was all he could manage in his season debut last week and Sunday’s three seemed to signal an unwelcome trend.

“If it feels like three innings then I’m not going to do it,” he said. “Like today, it took three or four guys out of the bullpen. That’s not fair to them. As much as I want to pitch, I don’t want to do that to anybody. To pitch three innings and then run the bullpen behind a guy, that’s not fair. To take up a spot and not do a job, I won’t do it.”

The Dodgers have been relying a lot on the bullpen anyway. Lasorda keeps trying to give Jay Howell some kind of rest, for example, but just hasn’t been able to.

When Howell closed out the Pirates in a strange ninth inning for his 15th save, it was another case of an off day turning into a work day.

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Asked if he has been counting how many times he’s been up to warm up in the last week, he said, “I’d rather not.”

Howell only faced two batters, blowing Dann Bilardello away on a curve with two on for the final out. But he pointed out that the toll on a pitcher’s arm is taken on the sideline as he warms up.

“And unfortunately you can’t cheat out there,” he said. “You can’t just lob it up there.”

It was Wetteland who immediately relieved Tudor, and although he gave up a Pittsburgh run in the fourth when Van Slyke singled Glenn Wilson in--this after a wild pitch advanced Wilson to third--he turned in another two scoreless innings to get the victory, his second in as many decisions.

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Then Tim Belcher, who had relieved and won the day before, came in for his shot. He took the game into the ninth inning when he allowed singles by Wilson and Rey Quinones.

Ricky Horton came in and, in the only bullpen disappointment of recent days, walked Barry Bonds and Wilson scored on ball four, which got away from Mike Scioscia for a passed ball. Howell came in to get R.J. Reynolds and Bilardello and put a lid on that little rally.

For the second game in a row, all offensive duties were left to Gonzalez. Lasorda had been on him to quit swinging for the fences, to just meet the ball.

This worked fine Saturday when a sinking line drive toward second turned into a game-winning RBI.

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But it worked better Sunday. In the fifth inning, with Jeff Hamilton on, Gonzalez met Pirate starter Doug Drabek (5-6) with a shot over the left-field fence. This was his first home run since 1986, a minor surprise to all.

“I made one mistake and that was the game,” Drabek said.

Said Gonzalez: “I was just trying to make contact.”

Gonzalez, now hitting .369, is happy enough just to be doing that. Last year at this time, he “figured my chances with the Dodgers were finished. But (General Manager) Mr. Fred Claire told me to be patient.”

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Dodger Notes

The Pirates were not surprised to learn that Dodger left-hander John Tudor had been hurting. Manager Jim Leyland noticed Tudor kept cranking his left arm, as if to develop more freedom of movement. “It looked to me he was fighting something the whole game.” . . . The only spark the Pirates showed was in the ninth. After Glenn Wilson singled, he decided to take second on Andy Van Slyke’s drive to left. The Dodgers’ Kirk Gibson almost threw him out at second. Then, when Dodger third baseman Jeff Hamilton couldn’t fight off Rey Quinones’ grounder, Wilson hesitated and stayed at third. He came in on Mike Scioscia’s passed ball. . . . If the Dodgers are getting runs from the lower half of the order, from Jose Gonzalez anyway, they are not getting much elsewhere. The vaunted trio of Gibson, Eddie Murray and Mike Marshall has not been producing. Gibson, after going 0 for 4 Sunday, has just five hits in his last 54 at-bats. Marshall, newly activated, was hitless again. . . . Tudor, asked why he was putting himself through the pain of his comeback, said: “Well, they’re paying me a lot of money to go through this.”


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