The Dodgers ended the first half of the season Sunday with a 2-1 victory against the New York Mets, then boarded a flight to Los Angeles for a more significant closure today, when they will pay their respects to Don Drysdale at his funeral.
Tom Candiotti, who started the game on two days rest, left for a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning with the score tied, 1-1, and with two outs and runners on first and third. Dave Hansen struck out, and Candiotti was left with his seventh consecutive no-decision, during which he has a 1.30 earned-run average.
Eric Davis broke the tie with a solo home run off Met starter Dwight Gooden (8-9) in the eighth inning. Pedro Martinez (6-2) picked up the victory and Jim Gott earned his 16th save.
It was a nice ending to a tragic, grueling trip that seemed to have begun much longer than 10 days ago in Montreal. The Dodgers were in third place in the National League West, 10 1/2 games behind the San Francisco Giants with 11 games before the All-Star break when the trip began. Manager Tom Lasorda had hoped to make up five games on the Giants before the All-Star game.
But two days later, Drysdale died alone in his hotel room of an apparent heart attack, and a cloud hovered over the team. There were sleepless nights because of Drysdale's passing, and because the team played a 20-inning game in Philadelphia, then a doubleheader in New York the next day, all in the midst of one of the worst heat waves in history on the East coast.
Tired and disquieted, the players return home after a 6-5 record on the trip and with an overall record of 46-41, but 12 games behind.
"There are a lot of things I like about this club that have been borne out on this road trip, and (one) is a very competitive attitude," said Fred Claire, Dodger executive vice president. "We have a group of players that do not, have not, will not quit."
But no matter how well the Dodgers played, they haven't been able to catch the Giants, who finished the first half of the season with a 59-30 record and the best winning percentage in baseball--.663. If the Giants have a 37-36 record for their final 73 games, the Dodgers would have to win 50 of their final 75 games merely to tie.
"Here our team goes through a 20-9 stretch and we didn't gain an inch," said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda, referring to the period from May 17-June 19, which began with an 11-game winning streak. "I thought that when we got to the All-Star break we would be within five games of them, but after Jody (Reed) got hurt, it hurt us. I wouldn't have believed that one guy could make that much difference on a team, but Jody has."
Before Reed suffered a partial ligament tear after being kicked by Andres Galarraga during a game against the Colorado Rockies on June 15, the Dodgers had put together a 20-6 stretch. Since then, they are 12-13. They have been trying to make up for a 14-22 start, tough when the Giants haven't slumped all season.
"I thought when the Giants lost Matt Williams it would hurt them, but it didn't--nothing has," Lasorda said. "Sooner or later, they have to go through a losing streak. They lose five games, we win five, we are back in business."
Reed is nearly ready to play. He took batting practice for the first time Sunday, will be re-evaluated during the All Star break and probably will return during the Dodger home stand.
"(Tim) Wallach and Reed have done a great job with Jose Offerman," Lasorda said. "You look at the difference in Offerman (playing shortstop) after Reed got hurt. That just shows how much they meant to him."
This trip also highlighted what the Dodgers need in the second half. Though Offerman has made 20 errors, his fielding has improved. But he needs to concentrate consistently and stay aggressive in the field.
In the bullpen--which has been the most consistent facet of the team--the Dodgers need another left-handed reliever and could have used closer Todd Worrell, who has been on the disabled list for most of the season. Three of the games on this trip went into extra innings, and the Dodgers won only one. Both losses came with the 11th man on the pitching staff, Rod Nichols, on the mound.
Worrell, who has been rehabilitating a sore elbow with the Dodgers' triple-A club in Albuquerque, could be activated Thursday, but his injuries have continued to put the bullpen in limbo.
"We started out the season hot and cold, not operating on all cylinders, then we lost Worrell," said Lasorda, giving his assessment of the first half. "There was a stretch there where we were missing three of the guys we went after (in the off-season)--Worrell, Tim Wallach and Reed. Then there was the (Darryl) Strawberry syndrome. First he could play, then he couldn't play, then he could, then he couldn't."
At the All-Star break last season, the Dodgers had a 39-49 record and were in sixth place behind Cincinnati and 13 games out of first. Claire says there is a distance for the Dodgers to go, but he likes what he sees this season much better than last season.
"Some of these guys pitched on three days rest this trip--Candiotti on two days--and you don't hear players on this team complaining," Claire said. "There is a unity that's very important because that's the type of thing you look for--the thing that players like (Roy) Campanella and Drysdale represented and that so important to us in this organization.
"Players can change, but if there are enough players to carry over, the attitude carries over. Because there are always changes."
* NATIONAL LEAGUE: The San Francisco Giants had 18 hits in a 10-2 rout of the Philadelphia Phillies, giving them three victories in a four-game series between the division leaders. C6
* AMERICAN LEAGUE: Frank Thomas and Jack McDowell tuned up for Tuesday's game with a couple of All-Star performances in Chicago's victory at Baltimore. C7