Dodgers Off Mark Against St. Louis : Baseball: With the score tied, 4-4, Samuel and Griffin throw away double-play opportunity, and Cardinals go on to 6-5 victory.


Last year the Dodgers were the best team in the National League at getting two outs on one play. This year they lose games because they can't get one.

It happened again Saturday night against St. Louis, when another double play was botched by Juan Samuel and Alfredo Griffin, leading to a two-run seventh inning that gave the Cardinals an eventual 6-5 victory before 39,914.

"We've got to bear down and play better defense if we are going to get back in this pennant race," catcher Rick Dempsey said after the third-place Dodgers fell to 11 games behind National League West-leading Cincinnati. "That is the only way we can get back in the race."

Reliever Lee Smith put away the game for St. Louis. Smith allowed the Dodgers to creep to within one run on a run-scoring single by Griffin in the eighth, but then retired the last four Dodger hitters he faced.

Two of the four outs came on strikeouts, and the final out came on a popout to shortstop by Kirk Gibson. It was Smith's ninth save since joining the team from the Boston Red Sox.

Yet this game was decided not on power, but finesse, which the Dodger middle infield lacked with Terry Pendleton on first base and the score tied, 4-4, with none out in the seventh inning.

With eventual loser Jim Gott pitching, Milt Thompson grounded a ball to Samuel. By the time Samuel began his throw to Griffin, the Dodger shortstop was already moving across the base in expectation of a perfect double-play toss.

It was not perfect. It was wide to Griffin's right. If he were standing square on the base, he might have caught it. But he was not.

The ball sailed into left field. Within seconds, the runners had advanced to second and third on Samuel's error.

Gott then gave up a run-scoring single to left by Jose Oquendo, his second RBI of the game but only his 23rd of the season. After a fly-ball out by Ozzie Smith, rookie Jim Poole replaced Gott. He gave up the Cardinals' second run on a single up the middle by pinch-hitter Craig Wilson.

"It was just a bad throw, there was nothing more to it than that, just a bad throw," Samuel said of his relay.

Later in the inning Griffin dropped a throw that didn't figure in the scoring but gave the Dodger shortstop 10 errors this season.

Griffin also took some of the blame for the botched double play.

"It was not that bad of a throw," he said. "I was trying to turn the double play, and so I was going to the other side of the base. I was cheating. And I couldn't react in time to get it."

Said Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog: "They gave the game to us . . . the error by Samuel did."

After recording a league-high 153 double plays last year with Griffin and since-departed second baseman Willie Randolph, the Dodgers have turned 62 in 74 games this season. They rank fourth in the league in double plays and eighth in fielding overall.

Even though the error by Samuel made one of the runs unearned, Gott fell to 0-2 with a 6.28 earned-run average and 21 hits allowed in 14 1/3 innings. He has given up runs in seven of 13 appearances since being activated May 25.

The game quickly became less than a suitable encore for Fernando Valenzuela's no-hitter.

The teams each had a hit by the time their third batter stepped up. By the end of the fourth inning, the teams had combined for 18 hits, leading to eight runs, four apiece. The Cardinals had lost a 1-0 lead, and the Dodgers had lost a 3-1 lead and a 4-3 lead.

The Dodger victim was starter Ramon Martinez, who entered with seven victories in his last eight decisions, and a 1.44 ERA at Dodger Stadium.

He is still 6-0 in Los Angeles, but only because he left the game after the fifth inning with the score tied. He is certainly not unscathed at Dodger Stadium, after giving up four runs on eight hits with five walks in his long five innings.

It was first time he had given up more than three runs in a start since May 10, and only the third time in 16 total starts.

"I still think he should make the All-Star team," Herzog said.

The Cardinal victim was John Tudor, making his first start against the Dodgers since leaving them through free agency last winter. The only thing that rained upon Tudor harder than the boos were the Dodger hits, as he gave up 10 in six innings for four runs.

Tudor had been the National League pitcher of the month in April, and his 2.70 ERA ranked sixth in the league. But Saturday, like Martinez, he showed little.

Dodger Notes

Ramon Martinez's chances of making the All-Star team could be hurt by his place in the Dodgers' new four-man rotation. Martinez's next start will be Wednesday against Chicago, meaning he will make his final start before the All-Star break next Sunday, two days before the All-Star game. With only one day of rest, Martinez probably could not pitch, and therefore may not be chosen. For now, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said he would not juggle his rotation so Martinez can be rested for the All-Star game. "If it happens that he is ready to pitch in the All-Star game, fine, but I'm not going to change anything for it," said Lasorda, who would have difficulty finding a fifth starter he could trust.

The 1:05 p.m. starting time today for the final game of this series with the St. Louis Cardinals is misleading. Because of the pregame old-timers' game festivities, the actual starting time is not until 2:05 p.m. . . . Thirty-five minutes after Fernando Valenzuela completed his no-hitter against St. Louis Friday, Dodger publicity director Mike Williams and wife, Brenda, became parents of a baby boy. He was not named Fernando. They chose Cameron instead.

NO-NO BIG DEAL: The day after throwing his first no-hitter is merely another day at the office for Dodger pitcher Fernando Valenzuela. C5

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