The Dodgers hoped Darryl Strawberry would be responsible for big hits, but not like this.
Shortly before Brett Butler's game-winning hit in the seventh inning, Strawberry crashed into the right-field wall Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium and was eventually forced to leave the game with a bruised left shoulder.
Strawberry was taken to Centinela Hospital Medical Center for X-rays as the Dodgers were completing a 4-3 victory over the Montreal Expos before 47,937.
As he was leaving the stadium for the hospital, Strawberry said he felt a pop in his shoulder when he hit the wall.
"Darryl is the one guy we do not want to lose," Manager Tom Lasorda said. "He presence alone means so much around here."
Strawberry, who dropped a fly ball that led to a triple and a run in the first inning, was chasing down a deep fly ball hit by Marquis Grissom. He caught the ball as he crashed into the wall.
He walked away holding his shoulder in pain, but remained in the game for the final out of the inning. After he returned to the dugout, the shoulder stiffened and he was sent to the hospital to be examined by Dr. Ralph Gambardella.
"There was no substantial swelling at the time, but the shoulder was tender. . . . There could be a possible sprain, but we don't know until it is completely checked," said Charlie Strasser, the Dodger assistant trainer who ran on to the field with Lasorda to examine Strawberry. "When we talked to him he said he was all right, but then he got inside and it stiffened on him."
The victory gave the Dodgers' sole possession of first place in the National League West for the second time this season and completed their first three-game series sweep since Aug. 28-30, 1990 against Philadelphia.
But all anybody could talk about was Strawberry, a $20.25-million investment who might have avoided injury if the Dodgers had spent a few bucks padding their outfield wall.
"I don't know if this is the only outfield wall in the league that is not padded, but it is one of the few," said outfielder Stan Javier.
Said Butler: "This is . . . the greatest stadium in baseball, and the wall does give a little. But not as much as you like."
Strawberry may only be batting .229 and have only two home runs and 11 runs-batted-in, but he was showing some of his old spark Wednesday night before his injury. He had singled, walked twice, scored two runs and stolen two bases.
"He was the same old Darryl tonight, hustling and not wanting to come out of the game," Butler said. "I really think he was trying to make up for that earlier play when he thought he should have caught the ball. He was going really hard. You could hear the wall when he went into it."
A full-count, line-drive single up the middle by Butler in the seventh inning against reliever Barry Jones was the big base hit of the night.
With the score tied 3-3, Jose Offerman drew a leadoff walk in the seventh. Greg Smith, pinch-hitting for his first at-bat as a Dodger, perfectly bunted Offerman to second.
Butler then drove him home for his 10th RBI, just one fewer than Strawberry.
"The key was the other two guys ahead of me doing their job," Butler said. "This was a real team win tonight, everybody getting involving."
Said Smith: "When I walked to home plate, I thought, 'Geez, this is my first at-bat here.' But you have to forget about that."
The winning pitcher was Tim Crews, who retired Andres Galarraga on a groundout with runners on first and second and two out in the seventh. It was the only batter he faced, as he has just relieved starter Bob Ojeda.
The Expos had taken a 2-0 lead against hard-luck pitcher Bob Ojeda. They scored on Ivan Calderon's long fly ball that Strawberry dropped in the first inning for what was ruled a triple, and on an RBI single in the fourth inning by Spike Owen.
The Dodgers countered with a run in the fourth on a grounder by Eddie Murray after Strawberry singled, stole second and went to third on a throwing error by Expo catcher Gilberto Reyes.
The Expos made it 3-1 in the sixth inning on Galarraga's second home run of the season.
The Dodgers tied it with two runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Gary Carter and a double-play grounder by Jeff Hamilton.