Hershiser Can Pitch, Too : Dodgers: He gets two key hits--increasing his average to .833--to help beat the Cubs, 6-3. It is right-hander’s 100th victory.
During his rehabilitation, many thought it would take a miracle for Orel Hershiser to win another game in the major leagues.
Sure enough, it did, as Hershiser hit two line-drive singles and scored two runs Sunday to give the Dodgers a 6-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs before 34,446 at Wrigley Field.
“Congratulations Orel, you hit the ball great and you ran the bases great,” Coach Joe Amalfitano said afterward, pumping Hershiser’s hand. “And oh, yeah, I guess you also pitched.”
Oh, yeah. Hershiser pitched like a man who had not won a game in 416 days, a man who had been sitting precariously on 99 career victories since April 19, 1990. A man hungry for victory.
He gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings while throwing 90 pitches. It was his most innings and pitches in three starts since coming back from a 13-month layoff because of reconstructive shoulder surgery.
“For right now, I think you can say Orel is back,” he said softly after collecting a dozen game balls to commemorate his 100th career victory.
“If I never win another game in the big leagues, I can now say that it has all been worth it.”
For his teammates, it was worth it simply to see him hit, which he has done at an incredible pace since his return. In six at-bats he has five hits, an .833 average.
That is nearly half as many hits as Gary Carter and Chris Gwynn have (11 each).
“It’s kind of strange, huh?” Hershiser said. “In the dugout today, everybody is trying to touch me, everybody saying, ‘You hot, you hot, give me some of that hot stuff.’ ”
It is even stranger when you realize that his rehabilitation did not include batting practice.
Hershiser did not swing a bat at a ball for more than a year. He finally stepped into the batters’ box one week before his first start.
“Even then, (batting coach) Ben Hines didn’t want me to swing ever again,” Hershiser said. “All he wanted me to do was bunt. (Therapist) Pat Screnar and Benny got into an argument about it, and Pat finally convinced him that my shoulder was OK enough to swing.”
So with the Dodgers trailing, 2-0, in the fifth inning, and Alfredo Griffin on first base, Hershiser faked the bunt. He pulled back the bat and chopped the ball to center field for a single.
He and Griffin eventually scored on a grounder by Brett Butler and a single by Juan Samuel to tie the score.
“I’m seriously thinking about getting Hershiser to work with our hitters,” Manager Tom Lasorda said.
He might have been only half joking, because with Griffin on first base in the seventh inning, Lasorda did the unthinkable with a pitcher batting. He called for a hit-and-run.
Once again Hershiser faked the bunt, then came up swinging, hitting the ball into center field again to move Griffin to third base. Griffin then scored the tiebreaking run on an infield single by Butler, and Hershiser scored the eventual winning run on a wild pitch by loser Danny Jackson.
“I come in to get a drink of water and now the guys are yelling, ‘Man, you are hotter than a Dominican trumpet player,’ ” Hershiser said.
So when Chris Gwynn was told he was going to pinch-hit if Hershiser came to the plate in the eighth inning, there was near mutiny.
According to witnesses, Gwynn jokingly said: “Tommy, how can you put me in there for a guy with two hits?”
Lasorda replied, “I would pinch-hit for Hershiser even if he was eight for seven.”
Of his 90 pitches, Hershiser threw 62 for strikes. He walked only one and struck out six.
Aside from a six-pitch sequence in the second inning, when George Bell doubled and Andre Dawson homered to left to give the Cubs the lead, Hershiser was never really in trouble.
Only four of the Cubs’ six hits were in the air. And of the final 12 batters he faced, only two hit the ball out of the infield.
“I was gassed out there today--before the seventh inning I changed T-shirts and game shirts and I was still fatigued when I went out there,” said Hershiser, who is restricting himself to 100 pitches or fewer until he feels stronger.
“For now, some teams are going to be saying to themselves, ‘Hang with him, he’s going to get tired,’ ” Hershiser said. “There’s nothing I can do about that until I get stronger. And I will get stronger.”
So have the Dodgers, who have won four of six games on this trip and will head to East-leading Pittsburgh after tonight’s finale.
“We have not fired on all cylinders yet, and we are still at the top of the heap,” said Hershiser, who is 1-1 with a 3.12 earned-run average. “I think that says something.”
EXPANSION: Denver and Miami appear to have enough support to join the National League as owners consider holding vote in Santa Monica. C8