If baseballs could talk, the one that Kal Daniels sent soaring over the left-center field fence late Friday night would have had just two words to say.
In his first appearance against the Cincinnati Reds since they traded him to the Dodgers last July 18, Daniels beat his old teammates with a homer against Norm Charlton leading off the 10th inning that gave the Dodgers a 2-1 victory.
Before 39,421 at Dodger Stadium, Daniels also had the Dodgers' other RBI on a first-inning sacrifice fly. He has a team-leading nine homers and 29 RBIs. The Dodgers' other run was scored by Lenny Harris, who was traded with Daniels for pitcher Tim Leary and infielder Mariano Duncan.
He made the Dodgers a winner in their first meeting with the National League West leaders this year, pulling them to within eight games of first place. He also made a winner of relief pitcher Don Aase, who threw two shutout innings.
The outcome capped an eventful day for the Dodgers, who before the game received an evening's worth of bad news.
Early Thursday afternoon, Kirk Gibson arrived from his week-long rehabilitation assignment at Triple-A Albuquerque with soreness in his left knee. It was not serious, but he could not be activated and placed in the lineup as hoped. He will still probably join the team by the end of this weekend series, perhaps as soon as tonight.
Then, less than two hours before the game, the Dodgers received more bad news, when Eddie Murray discovered his strained left hamstring was too sore to allow him to start. Dodger coach Bill Russell tore down the blue lineup card off the dugout wall and filled in a new one, with Mike Sharperson starting at first base.
The outcome also overshadowed a splendid pitching duel between Jack Armstrong, the National League's newest pitching star, and weathered Dodger starter Mike Morgan.
Armstrong, the league's best starter thus far, allowed one run on five hits in 8 1/3 innings. Morgan, the league's most underrated starter, allowed one unearned run on six hits in eight innings. It was a night when they showed their survival instincts, as together they allowed 22 baserunners.
Morgan entered the game as the staff's ace, with a team-leading six wins, three shutouts and four complete games. But none of his nine starts matched this one. He had help from Mike Scioscia, who had one of his best nights of the season behind the plate by throwing out all three runners who attempted to steal second base.
After retiring the first three Reds, Morgan allowed his only run in the second, and only after Mariano Duncan led off with a grounder that Alfredo Griffin threw in the dirt for an error. Joe Oliver singled, then Armstrong bunted the runners to second and third, From there, Duncan easily scored on Chris Sabo's grounder to shortstop.
But from there, Morgan became even tougher.
The Reds put runners on first and third with one out in the fourth, but Morgan retired Todd Benzinger on a fly and struck out Duncan. The Reds put a runner on first with one out in the sixth and the heart of the order coming up, but Eric Davis flied to right and Paul O'Neill grounded to second.
There were runners on first and second with one out again in the seventh, after Scioscia had thrown out Benzinger as he tried to steal. Morgan solved the problem by getting a double-play grounder back to the mound from Armstrong. Another double play saved Morgan in the eighth, with runners on first and second and one out. Morgan struck out Davis, followed by a great throw to third by Scioscia to nail Billy Hatcher attempting to steal.
Armstrong, who has impressed baseball with his pitching skill this season after two poor big-league years during which he just threw the ball hard, lived up to his billing.
He looked like the pitcher who had the lowest earned-run average in the major leagues at 1.61, and one of the best records at 8-1.
The Dodgers scored a run in their first chance against him in the first inning, but it could have been worse for him. After Harris led off with a double, making him seven for 13 against his ex-teammates, he was bunted to third by Stan Javier. Armstrong then induced Daniels into a line drive to left that a diving Davis caught. It scored Harris, but it was also the second out, and Hubie Brooks ended the inning with a grounder.
Over the next seven innings, the Dodgers managed just five hits, one of those a bad-hop single. They put at least one runner on base in six of those innings, but Armstrong calmly worked out of every jam.
With runners on first and second in the second, Morgan struck out. In the same situation in the fourth inning, Griffin flied out. In the same situation in the sixth inning, Griffin lined out to diving first baseman Benzinger.
Armstrong quieted the most inspired Dodger rally in the eighth, after Daniels had singled and taken second on a ground ball by Scioscia that bounced off third baseman Sabo's glove for an error. With runners on first and second and one out, up to the plate hobbled Murray.
Red Manager Lou Piniella walked to the mound and met with Armstrong, but left him in the game. One pitch later, he was out of the inning, as Murray grounded the ball to second base, and into an inning-ending double play.
Eddie Murray was not scratched from the lineup until around 5:30 p.m. Friday, but his sore left hamstring was nothing new. It was the same injury that forced him to miss four consecutive starts last week in Chicago and St. Louis. He aggravated it again in Pittsburgh earlier this week but kept playing. "It hasn't been getting any better," said Murray, who was five for 15 on the trip with four RBIs despite the pain. . . . Ray Searage threw off a mound for the first time Thursday since being placed on the disabled list May 14 because of elbow tightness. The rest and rehabilitation has apparently worked. "It felt great to throw without pain," Searage said of his 10-minute workout. "It felt so good, I just kept throwing, and Perry (pitching coach Ron Perranoski) finally had to tell me to watch myself." Searage, who is eligible to come off the disabled list, hopes to throw a couple of simulated games next week and return to the bullpen within 10 days. The Dodgers will benefit from having a second left-handed reliever, particularly since Searage has struck out nine in 9 2/3 innings.
Former Red Kal Daniels spoke from experience about one of the Dodger advantages in this series. "They are starting their first West Coast trip here, and that makes it a good time to get them," Daniels said. "I remember, those West Coast trips could be brutal. It takes you a couple of days to get used to the time change."
The Dodgers will have one of their biggest pregame ceremonies tonight when they honor 4,000 top local elementary and junior high school students as winners in the IBM/Dodgers Student Pennant race. The game is sold out.