It seems as if all the Dodgers have done this season is search for consistency in every facet of their game except the bullpen. They have been searching for that clutch hit or key pitching performance, something or some game that would turn the team around and send them on a winning streak.
This home stand, they finally got it.
Ramon Martinez pitched his first shutout in a year Sunday to give the Dodgers their sixth consecutive victory, 4-0, over the Colorado Rockies. Behind Martinez's three-hitter, every facet of the Dodgers' game was in sync, except for the bullpen--for only the fourth game of the season, the relievers weren't needed.
The victory moved the team ahead of Cincinnati into sole position of fourth place for the first time since April 20 and kept them 8 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants.
"Someone asked me how it feels to win six games in a row," Manager Tom Lasorda said. "I told him it was the opposite of how I would feel if I lost six in a row."
The latter feeling, Lasorda knows only too well. He also knows the game that turned his team around.
"The game that really helped us was that first game (of the home stand) against Cincinnati, when we scored three runs in the ninth inning to tie it up and then went on to beat them in the 10th," Lasorda said.
That game, last Monday night, gave the Dodgers their first ninth-inning comeback victory this season. The lift came after the team returned from another bruising trip with a 3-6 record.
This Dodger home stand has been full of clutch performances. But the hit that made the difference Sunday was a single by Eric Karros during the seventh inning that scored Mike Piazza and broke up a scoreless tie. It was only a single to left field, but besides winning the game, it might have kept Martinez in the game. With runners on second and third, and none out, Lasorda later said he might have had to hit for Martinez, who bats two spots behind Karros.
For Karros, who had only two hits in his previous 26 at-bats, it was a positive step.
"It was one day, one hit, but it will buy me a few more days of sanity," Karros said.
Piazza and Cory Snyder hit back-to-back singles to start the seventh. With a 1-and-0 count on Karros, Lasorda took off the bunt sign and unexpectedly gave the hit-and-run sign.
Blair's pitch was in the dirt, so Karros, seeing the runners get a good jump, held his swing. It gave Piazza his first major league stolen base.
Eric Davis, who made his second consecutive start Sunday--his fourth start in 10 games--struck out in his first two at-bats. But in his third at bat, he battled back against Rocky starter Willie Blair (1-1) from an 0-and-2 count and walked.
In his next at-bat, in the eighth inning, Davis hit a 1-and-0 pitch from reliever Andy Ashby into the left field seats for a solo home run, putting the Dodgers ahead, 4-0.
Jose Offerman had two doubles and robbed the Rockies' Eric Young of a run-scoring single to end the third inning.
"Before, we were all trying so hard and now we are playing very good," said Martinez (3-3). "It's been this way since that first game Monday when we came back and won. It makes the team excited when you start winning."