There was something Kal Daniels had secretly been dying to show the Cincinnati Reds since they traded him to the Dodgers last July 18. On Thursday night, in the 10th inning, after hitting a breaking pitch from Norm Charlton into the left-field seats, he finally got his chance.
So, how about this new home-run trot?
Daniels' leadoff homer gave the Dodgers a 2-1 victory in front of 39,421 at Dodger Stadium.
"That's just my home-run trot for the 1990s," Daniels said with a smile after his stroll around the bases and into the waiting hugs of teammates.
Add his first-inning sacrifice fly, and it wasn't a bad reunion for a guy making his first appearance against the Reds since the trade. It was also nice start for the Dodgers in their first series against the National League West leaders, whose margin over the Dodgers was cut to eight games.
All of which led Lenny Harris, who was traded with Daniels for pitcher Tim Leary and infielder Mariano Duncan, to compare Daniels' trot to a walk of redemption.
"This was so big for Kal," said Harris, who scored the Dodgers' other run in the first inning after a double and is seven for 17 against his former teammates. "Last year, when he couldn't play against the Reds because he was hurt, it was terrible for him. He could not even sit in the dugout, he was so mad. You could tell from the look on his face that he was thinking like, 'Hey, wait until next year.' "
Daniels, who leads the Dodgers with nine homers and 29 runs batted in, confirmed that it is indeed a new year.
"I'm friends with everybody over there, but once we get between the lines, I'm a Dodger and they are the Reds . . . and we're enemies," Daniels said.
Afterward, at least one Red talked like it.
"No matter what happened today, those guys don't have a chance," said Duncan.
And thus began the season's 18-game series between what could be the West's top two teams, with dramatics and histrionics and, oh yes, great pitching.
Daniels made a winner of relief pitcher Don Aase, who threw two shutout innings for the bullpen's fifth victory this season. Aase followed starter Mike Morgan, the Dodger veteran who engaged in a pitching duel with Jack Armstrong, the National League's newest pitching star.
Armstrong, who entered with an 8-1 record and 1.61 earned-run average, gave up one run on five hits in 8 1/3 innings. Morgan 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.
"This was a big, big game," Morgan said. "We just got swept in Pittsburgh, and now we're playing a team that does everything good. . . . This was a big, big win."
The outcome capped a big--and bad--day for the Dodgers.
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.
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 from the dugout wall and filled in a new one, with Mike Sharperson starting at first base.
But not to worry. 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 Duncan led off with a grounder that Alfredo Griffin threw into 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 had four more good chances to score, and he stopped them all.
Then there was Armstrong, who has stunned baseball with his pitching skill this season after two poor big league years during which he merely threw the ball hard.
The Dodgers scored a run in their first chance against him in the first inning, but nothing more. After Harris led off with a double, he was bunted to third by Stan Javier. Armstrong then induced Daniels into a line drive to left that diving Eric Davis caught. It scored Harris, but it was also the second out, and Hubie Brooks ended the inning with a grounder.
In the eighth, the Dodgers had runners on first and second with one out. Red Manager Lou Piniella went to the mound, but left Armstrong in, and a hobbling Murray grounded into a 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 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.
A happy Mariano Duncan comes off the disabled list just in time to face his former team. Alan Drooz's story.