If Orel Hershiser was able to get through his 30th start Tuesday night, he would become eligible to make $250,000 per start for the rest of the season.
Why, then, would he pick that night to pick on Gary Sheffield?
The San Diego Padres couldn't figure it out either. They watched Hershiser hit Sheffield twice , and did nothing about it.
The league's best player was stunned, his teammates appeared intimidated, and the Dodgers turned a 2-0 deficit into a 6-3 victory before 9,997.
Hershiser, getting his first victory at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium since 1986, also won for only the third time since the All-Star break. He gave up two runs in five innings.
"I'm just glad I'm healthy and contributing," Hershiser said. "The risk the Dodgers made in signing me has paid off."
He was removed from the game for pinch-hitter Dave Anderson in the sixth inning, and just in time. Anderson doubled into the left-field corner against reliever Rich Rodriguez to give the Dodgers a 3-2 lead they never lost.
Jose Offerman then added to it with a run-scoring fly ball.
By then, Hershiser had already made the game's strongest statements by throwing two inside pitches at Sheffield, who is within striking distance of baseball's first triple crown since 1967.
In the first inning, two batters after Tony Fernandez gave the Padres the lead with a leadoff homer, Hershiser hit Sheffield in the thigh with his second pitch. The fans booed, and Sheffield briefly glared before trotting to first base.
"That one just got away from me," Hershiser said.
In the third inning, with the Padres leading, 2-0, Hershiser's first pitch hit Sheffield on the left shoulder. This time Sheffield, obviously upset, was given an escort to first base by home plate umpire Larry Poncino after Hershiser came off the mound to apologize.
When Poncino returned to the plate, he conferred with crew chief Harry Wendelstedt and then issued Hershiser a warning. This brought out Manager Tom Lasorda, who engaged in a heated argument with both umpires.
Lasorda eventually returned to the bench but didn't cool down. Two batters later he was ejected from a game for the third time this year because of something he yelled from the dugout.
"Yeah, I always try to hit somebody and come off the mound to apologize to them," Hershiser said. "That ball really wasn't that far inside."
Sheffield said: "He always pitches me in. He said he didn't mean to hit me, and I believe him."
When the Dodgers came to bat in the top of the fourth inning, the crowd murmured as if wondering about the obvious question--who would pitcher Jim Deshaies hit, and when?
But he didn't pitch close to anybody in the fourth. And then in the fifth he didn't pitch close to Hershiser, who singled up the middle against him amid a chorus of boos.
Hershiser was pitching with the bravado that one might not expect from a man who signed a three-year, $10-million contract last winter that paid him to remain injury-free. In addition to his $3-million guarantee this season, he will make $250,000 for each start after his 30th start.
If he was able to start 36 games, he would have an additional $1 million added to his base salary for the next two seasons. But because the Dodgers did not make the playoffs, that statistic is out of his reach.