Valenzuela Does Double Duty as Dodgers End Slump, 3-2
Fernando Valenzuela turned back the clock and the Montreal Expos on Monday with a vintage performance that earned him standing ovations for his hitting as well as his pitching.
With the Dodgers reeling from a six-game losing streak and desperately looking for a stopper in Orel Hershiser’s absence, Valenzuela stepped up with a 3-2 victory in the opener of an eight-game home stand at Dodger Stadium.
The veteran left-hander not only improved to 3-3 in winning his third game in four starts, but he went two for two with a home run, picked off Tim Raines--the potential tying run--in the eighth inning and withstood some more shaky Dodger defense, working around two errors by third baseman Mike Sharperson that put runners in scoring position.
After giving up a home run to losing pitcher Kevin Gross (4-2), Valenzuela got the crowd of 28,758 roaring in the third inning with his first home run since Sept. 5, 1987. He then sailed through three perfect innings, aided by two outstanding fielding plays by shortstop Alfredo Griffin, and got out of trouble after giving up an unearned run in the eighth by catching Raines leaning the wrong way off first.
Valenzuela was so combative in the ninth that after he walked leadoff batter Andres Galarraga, he tried to persuade pitching coach Ron Perranoski to leave him in the game, and stalked off angrily when Don Aase was brought in for his second save.
Afterward, Valenzuela acknowledged that he was tired. “I like to stay in the game all the time,” he said. “After the first inning I felt like it was one of those (good) games.”
Expo Manager Buck Rodgers said after Gross homered, Valenzuela “was awful good. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t have a best pitch--he used all his pitches and kept us off balance.”
Valenzuela was in control for much of the game, striking out six through five innings and giving up only one other hit out of the infield through seven innings. He gave up five hits and walked one in his eight innings.
And Valenzuela seemed to energize the offense when he hit Gross’ first pitch of the third inning over the right-field fence. Juan Samuel followed with a single and his 17th stolen base and Lenny Harris doubled him in. Four batters later, Mike Scioscia drove in the third run home with a sacrifice fly.
The Dodgers also threatened in the fourth, Griffin and Valenzuela opening with singles to put runners at first and third. It took a running catch by Expo rookie outfielder Larry Walker that was turned into a double play at the plate to quell the rally.
Even Dodger first baseman Eddie Murray seemed rejuvenated Monday, stealing his first base of the season after missing a game during the weekend because of a strained hamstring.
It was Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda who put Valenzuela’s performance in perspective. Asked if he would have let Valenzuela finish the game five years ago, Lasorda said, “Five years ago he was five years younger.”
Valenzuela, who threw 118 pitches, lowered his earned run average to 2.68, raised his batting average to .333 and brightened the Dodgers’ outlook. The home run was the eighth of his career.
“It’s my eighth. I knew the ball was going out,” he said.
Said Gross: “He’s hit a lot more (home runs) than I have. I threw a good pitch at his knees, he just lifted it. . . . Maybe this was just their night to win.”
Left-handed reliever Ray Searage, suffering soreness in his left elbow, Monday was placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 11. Left-hander Mike Munoz was recalled from Albuquerque to take his place. Searage was examined by Dr. Frank Jobe, whose diagnosis was inflammation of the muscles. . . . Disabled pitchers Pat Perry and Jim Gott pitched for Bakersfield Sunday. Gott will throw a simulated game here Wednesday. . . . Disabled outfielder Kirk Gibson took batting practice, ran and threw Monday. . . . Disabled reliever Jay Howell worked out Monday and hopes to return soon.
Juan Samuel started in center field Monday night but said he expects to be at second base tonight. The newest Dodger, Stan Javier, was in uniform Monday, wearing No. 5--which, he said, has no special significance. Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda’s first advice to Javier was, “Stay away from (Mickey) Hatcher. The last three guys who hung around him went down. We fine (Brian) Traxler for sitting next to him in the dugout.”