This was not in rookie pitcher Russ Swan’s dreams. Not even his bad ones.
Recalled from triple-A Phoenix to help rescue the sickly San Francisco Giants pitching staff, Swan was racing to catch a morning plane to Los Angeles Thursday when he was pulled over by a policeman. He was handed a speeding ticket for going 57 m.p.h. in a 45-m.p.h. zone. When he finally reached the airplane, his seat had been filled.
“It was insane,” Swan said. “I get called up to the big leagues, and I can’t go.”
Swan caught the next flight, reassured by a television report that said he wouldn’t start for the Giants until Saturday. He arrived at Dodger Stadium for Thursday night’s game at 5:10 p.m.
The Giants met him with a smile, then told him not to believe everything he heard on television. They told him he was starting in two hours.
“I walk in the dugout, and (Manager) Roger (Craig) says, ‘Hurry up,’ and I said, ‘What?’ ” Swan recalled. “When they called me up, I didn’t even know whether I would be a starter or a reliever. And now I’m starting. It was a shock.”
His shock, not to mention his problems with speed, were just beginning.
Staked to a 3-0 lead on Kevin Mitchell’s 34th homer in the first inning, Swan’s major league debut was bombed by Dodger feet and bats in a 6-3 Los Angeles victory before a crowd of 43,516 at Dodger Stadium.
Swan gave up an unearned run in the third inning when Jose Gonzalez sprinted all the way home from first base on a five-foot bunt and an error.
Swan was hit for four more runs in the fourth on Eddie Murray’s first triple of the season, a two-run shot, and Mike Marshall’s seventh homer of the season.
“I had the adrenaline going, but it was a weird day,” said Swan, 25. “I don’t know what I was thinking.”
His uncertainty was all the Dodgers needed to win their second straight game from the National League West leaders.
The Dodgers moved within 11 1/2 games of first place. Athough they are still tied with Cincinnati for fourth, this is closer than they’ve been since July 14.
“I don’t like our chances, but I think there’s still a chance,” said winning pitcher Orel Hershiser, noting there are still nine games remaining between the Dodgers and Giants.
“Maybe if we can take two out of three from them in two more series, and then sweep another one, we could get back in it. But then you never know what Houston and San Diego are going to do.”
Hershiser was coming off a bout with the flu that caused him to miss Wednesday’s game. Interestingly, the last time he missed a day with the flu, July 17, he pitched a four-hitter against Chicago the next night.
Against the Giants, he scattered seven hits over seven innings.
After the first inning, during which Mitchell’s homer followed singles by Ken Oberkfell and Will Clark, Hershiser retired 17 of his final 21 batters. He improved his record to 13-8, and he is on a second-half roll. In six starts since the All-Star break, Hershiser has gone 5-1 with a 2.25 earned-run average.
The losing pitcher was Swan. He had started the season at double-A Shreveport before being recalled to Phoenix, where he went 3-3 with a 2.49 ERA. He was hurried to the big leagues Thursday because of disabling injuries to starters Rick Reuschel and Atlee Hammaker.
He didn’t allow a hit in the first two innings. But he gave up his first major league single to Gonzalez leading off the third. Then he got his first taste of major league trouble.
One out after Gonzalez’s hit, Hershiser successfully bunted him to second base. But Gonzalez, perhaps the fastest Dodger, was not content with just second. He crossed the bag and headed for an uncovered third base without breaking stride.
Flustered second baseman Oberkfell threw the ball to an equally flustered shortstop Jose Uribe, who was trying to beat Gonzalez to the bag. The race didn’t matter when Oberkfell threw the ball into left field. Gonzalez scored easily.
Such speed is uncommon around these parts, considering that the Dodgers entered the night ranked 10th in the league in stolen bases and 11th in triples.
“I wanted to pick it up, to get people going,” Gonzalez said. “Sometimes the other team sleeps, you never know. I see nobody on third and look at the guy covering second and I think, I can beat him to third.”
Murray also showed some of that speed in the fourth inning, stealing his third base of the year. However, Murray has been most overwhelming with his hitting lately. He has eight hits in his last 23 at-bats (.348) with three homers and 11 RBIs, putting him among league leaders with 64 RBIS.
Thurday’s win was nailed down, as usual, by Jay Howell, who gained his second save in two nights and 22nd save of the season with two scoreless innings. He has allowed one run in his last 26 1/3 innings and overall has yielded just five runs in 57 1/3 innings for an 0.78 ERA.
Kal Daniels missed his second straight start in left field and will undergo a testing today on his right knee, which was surgically repaired in May. Losing Daniels would be a big blow to the Dodgers, as he has hit in nine of 11 games since joining the team from Cincinnati, going 13 for 38 (.342) with two homers and eight RBIs. . . . San Francisco starter Atlee Hammaker, who was carried from the field on a stretcher Wednesday after spraining his knee on a slide at second base, will undergo arthroscopic surgery this weekend. He will miss at least four weeks.
San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos visited Dodger Stadium Thursday night to research ideas for a new downtown stadium, which he formally proposed last week to replace Candlestick Park. “We have talked about a 30-year stadium lease, and some people think that 30 years is the life expectancy of a stadium, but look at this place,” Agnos said of Dodger Stadium. “This place is 28 years old and it’s so nice, you can eat off the aisles. The Giants wanted me to see this place so I could speak with authority and passion about what a baseball stadium should be like.” Agnos said that his idea for a stadium, which will be brought to a public vote in November, includes a right-field fence bordering San Francisco Bay. Home runs could land in the water. “I told Will Clark we would change his nickname to ‘Will the Spill,’ ” Agnos said.
Tom Lasorda, reflecting on his 2,000th game as the Dodgers’ manager Wednesday, said: “I could hardly believe it when somebody mentioned it to me,” Lasorda said. “To be around that long, I could not have done it without a good boss. Thank God for the O’Malleys.”