He Makes Good First Impression : Dodgers: Newest pitcher Wilson introduces himself by striking out Bonds in eighth inning to help beat Pirates, 5-1.
Compared to what he endured the previous night, Steve Wilson didn’t even quiver when asked to help the Dodgers stay ahead of the Pittsburgh Pirates Saturday.
Facing Barry Bonds with the tying and go-ahead runs on first and third bases in the eighth inning? With none out? And after throwing three consecutive balls? Nothing to it.
Wilson came back with four consecutive pitches on the corner of the plate to strike out Bonds and help the Dodgers to a 5-1 victory before 37,416 at Three Rivers Stadium.
Then Wilson talked about real pressure.
Such as when he joined the Dodgers in the fifth inning of the first game of a doubleheader Friday after being traded from the Chicago Cubs.
“I walk out into the dugout of this team in the middle of a pennant race. I don’t know anybody on this team, but I’m on this team,” Wilson said. “It was kind of weird.”
Such as going to the bullpen later in the inning.
“Really strange,” Jim Gott said. “Suddenly this guy just kind of wanders in from nowhere.”
Said Roger McDowell: “I saw this guy coming in late and I said, ‘Where’s your note?’ ”
Judging from the way Wilson was beaming in the clubhouse late Saturday, it appears everything has turned out just fine.
Well, almost everything.
The Pirate visiting clubhouse workers weren’t expecting him, so he doesn’t have his own locker. And about those introductions. . . .
“It’s Wilson, right?” winning pitcher Bob Ojeda asked with a smile.
In remaining half a game in front of Atlanta with their second victory in three games here, the veteran Dodgers finally have experienced a victory that made them feel like little boys again.
“Isn’t this something? Isn’t this exciting?” Brett Butler asked. “Somebody comes out of the blue to win a game for us? I mean, this Steve Wilson was right out of the blue.”
The entire evening was unusual, beginning with a pregame visit by Manager Tom Lasorda to the bedside of Pittsburgh Penguin Coach Bob Johnson, who is hospitalized with a brain tumor.
“I told we were going to win this one for him, and he just smiled,” Lasorda said.
The night ended several hours later when Gott, pitching 1 2/3 scoreless innings, recorded his first save since May 14. It was also his first save in Pittsburgh since he had 34 for the Pirates in 1988.
“I’m starting to feel like I felt when I was here--that when I cross the line, I feel unbeatable,” said Gott, working on seven consecutive scoreless appearances covering 10 2/3 innings.
The only thing that warmed the Dodger hearts more than the sight of Gott shaking his fist in celebration was the scene in the top of the inning.
With two out, bases loaded and the Dodgers leading, 2-1, Eddie Murray limped out an infield single to start a three-run uprising that clinched the victory.
Depending on your perspective, it was either the prettiest or ugliest run to first base this season. Murray, who missed his fourth consecutive start because of a sprained ankle that is causing pain in his right side, barely beat a throw from second baseman Jose Lind after hitting a pinch grounder up the middle.
“That’s what you get for topping the ball,” Murray said with a grin after being asked about his run. “Really, the problem started when I got the bat caught between my legs. . . .”
The Dodgers beat defending Cy Young Award winner Doug Drabek in the fifth inning with a leadoff triple by Juan Samuel, a run-scoring single by Gary Carter and run-scoring grounder by Brett Butler.
Bob Ojeda gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings for his first victory since Aug. 7, even though he has a 2.20 earned-run average since then.
He was bailed out of a jam by Roger McDowell, who stranded two runners in the seventh inning. Then, after McDowell allowed singles by Don Slaught and Bobby Bonilla to start the eighth, in came Wilson, a left-hander.
Why bring in a guy with a career 4.60 ERA in parts of three major league seasons? Maybe it had something to do with John Candelaria’s needing a rest and Dennis Cook not having the boss’ confidence.
“Funny thing about Tom Lasorda is, I left the Cubs right before a game Friday, flew here, hustled to the ballpark, and the first thing he says to me is, ‘What took you so long?’ ” Wilson said.
After Wilson fell behind Bonds 3 and 0, Lasorda wasn’t so happy to see him. But after two called strikes, Bonds fouled off a pitch, then struck out swinging. In came Gott, who retired Steve Buechele on a line drive and Cecil Espy on a grounder to end the inning.
“When I talk about games being fun this time of year, this is what I mean,” Ojeda said. “Right here. Tonight. This is what we all live for.”