There are still two months and many pitches left. But what was previously an idle thought has become a whisper.
Ramon Martinez, Cy Young Award candidate .
The Dodger pitcher gave up a 20-foot hit to the first batter of the game Tuesday . . . and then allowed only one more hit during a 9-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants before 39,279 at Dodger Stadium.
In helping the Dodgers reach the .500 mark at 47-47 for the first time since June 25, Martinez threw the low-hit game of his career and struck out eight to increase his major-league leading total to 150.
The only runs he allowed were caused by two eighth-inning errors by shortstop Jose Vizcaino, who missed a tag at second base on a double-play attempt, and then missed a ground ball. An unearned run scored on the botched grounder, and then Brett Butler's fly ball scored the other unearned run.
Otherwise, Martinez was close to perfect after allowing a leadoff bunt single to Butler. He retired the next 17 hitters before Juan Samuel muffed a grounder in the sixth inning for an error.
Martinez then retired the next four hitters before walking Mark Leonard on four pitches to start the eighth-inning mess. The second hit against Martinez came with one out in the ninth on a ground ball hit by Kevin Mitchell that bounced by Vizcaino and into left field.
The Dodgers had 10 hits, included two big ones that made Giant Manager Roger Craig cringe. A two-run single by Hubie Brooks and a two-run double by Mike Scioscia both came after intentional walks loaded the bases.
Brooks' hit gave the Dodgers a 2-0 first-inning lead against loser John Burkett that they never lost. Scioscia's hit started a five-run seventh inning against Ed Vosberg that was capped by Samuel's three-run homer, his eighth.
The Dodgers' involvement in a pennant race may still be a dream even though they moved to within 1 1/2 games of the second-place Giants and 12 1/2 of the National League West-leading Cincinnnati Reds.
But Martinez has become a contender in his own race--for Cy Young Award.
The early favorite, Frank Viola of the New York Mets, has failed three times to win his 14th game. He is 13-5 with a 2.43 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 141 innings.
Another top candidate, Jack Armstrong of the Cincinnati Reds, was pounded for seven runs in 4 2/3 innings by the San Diego Padres Tuesday and is 11-6 with a 3.08 earned-run average.
Martinez is 12-4 with 2.77 ERA. He not only leads the league in strikeouts, but in complete games with seven, and is tied for second with three shutouts.
And there's more, such as, he wins big games. Martinez is 6-0 against the West Division. Six times he has won a game following a Dodger loss. The Dodgers are 11-1 in games during which he goes seven or more innings.
Tuesday's starter for the Giants, Burkett, is another bright young pitcher like Monday's starter Trevor Wilson. He entered the game with just two losses in 17 starts, plus nine wins to complement a 3.53 earned-run average. And earlier this season, making his 1990 debut in Dodgeer Stadium, he allowed just two runs in seven innings
But this time, like his counterpart Wilson, he didn't fool the Dodgers for a minute.
With one out in the first inning, Kirk Gibson lofted a single to center field. Gibson has hit safely in 16 of his last 20 games. Kal Daniels then increased his hitting streak to six games with a single to center.
Gibson hustled to third, forcing a throw from center fielder Brett Butler. The ball bounced wildly past third base, allowing Brooks to move to second and giving Butler just his third error of the season.
Eddie Murray was then intentionally walked to load the bases, an unusual move in the first innning. Brooks then showed what he thought of it by lining a single to right field, scoring Gibson and Daniels while extending his hitting streak to eight games. In eight at-bats with the bases loaded this season, Brooks is batting .428, with eight RBIs.
Saturday's bar fight will apparently cost Alfredo Griffin a week of games. Griffin's scratched and swollen left eye was diagnosed as having no permanent damage by Dr. Matthew Bernstein, but because of reaction to medication, he will miss at least the next three days. He might not even return to the team until next Monday, when he will be re-examined by Bernstein. Wilson Sturgeon Jr., the Pittsburgh busboy who was allegedly assaulted by Griffin and Juan Samuel Saturday morning, said he will meet with his lawyer today to discuss the filing of a lawsuit.
Will Clark, the Giants' first baseman, missed a second consecutive start because of a sore right foot, but he was available to pinch-hit. Clark was hitting a career .462 against Dodger starter Ramon Martinez. . . . The Dodgers' first-round jinx has struck pitcher Ron Walden, their top pick in the recent June draft. After making three starts for Great Falls in the Pioneer rookie league, Walden has developed a tender elbow and will miss what officials are calling "a few" starts. League sources confirm that Walden, taken ninth overall, was rated as the No. 2 high school pitcher in the draft but was passed by other teams because doctors said he will require shoulder surgery within a couple of years. Last year's top draft pick, Kiki Jones, has pitched only nine games for Class-A Bakersfield this season because a sore shoulder. The 1988 top draft pick, Bill Bene, has pitched in only 12 games for Class-A Vero Beach with a sore shoulder. The 1987 top pick, Dan Opperman of double-A San Antonio, is participating in his first full season because of elbow trouble.
Don Aase, who threw in the bullpen again without pain, will appear in his first simulated game at the end of this week. He could be ready to return to the team within a couple of weeks.