It was a bad sign for the Dodgers on Wednesday night when the crowd of 47,819 at Dodger Stadium started doing the wave as early as the bottom of the fourth inning. When that happens--or the beach balls come out--it usually means the game is over.
And by then, it was.
The Philadelphia Phillies had taken advantage of a wild Orel Hershiser in the top of the fourth inning to take a 5-0 lead on their way to a 7-0 victory and a sweep of the three-game series.
Phillie starter Tommy Greene (12-3), who came out of the game with one out in the ninth inning after suffering a mild groin sprain, held the Dodgers to six hits and faced only 30 batters through 8 1/3 innings.
The victory gave Greene the honor of being the winningest non-San Francisco pitcher in the National League. John Burkett and Billy Swift of the Giants have 13 victories apiece.
The victory also gave Philadelphia, now five games ahead of St. Louis in the NL East, its eighth sweep this season and its fifth road sweep. That's an impressive statistic until you look up north, where San Francisco continues to do sweeping of its own. The Giants had already completed a three-game sweep of the Montreal Expos when the Dodgers took the field Wednesday night.
So as these three days have gone for the Giants, so goes the season for the Dodgers, who can't seem to gain against the Giants when they do win and clearly can't gain when they don't. Now, with the Giants 14 games ahead, it would take a total collapse for the Dodgers to climb into the race in the 68 games they have left to play.
For a start, the Dodgers need to get some offense. In their last seven games, they have scored only 19 runs.
"We can't keep playing the way we played the last three games," Jody Reed said. "But we've been through this already this season, and the guys know what they need to do to turn it around. If we are really the scrappy team that we are, we'll do it."
Compared to how the team played last season, they could find some solace in a dramatic improvement in their defense, which ranks seventh in the league. The team's pitching is third, but that always ranks high.
The Dodgers' record after 94 games this season is 49-45, and they are tied for third in the NL West. At the same time last season, the team was 41-53, in sixth place, and 15 games behind.
"There is some comfort, but we are better than the way we have played recently," Tim Wallach said. "We could have been closer, but San Francisco is playing great--you have got to give them the credit. They have played better than pretty well. We could still be in it, and feel like we can, but at some point they will have to slump and do it before it will be too late."
It was too late after the fourth inning Wednesday night. The Phillies, already ahead, 1-0, took advantage of Hershiser's lack of control to score four runs in the fourth.
Hershiser (7-9) walked leadoff batter Darren Daulton, then threw his second wild pitch of the game, moving Daulton to second. He followed that by giving up singles to Jim Eisenreich and Milt Thompson, scoring Daulton. With two out, and runners on first and third, Hershiser threw a fourth ball to Lenny Dykstra that was high and wide and sailed to the backstop. Eisenreich scored, the runners moved up to second and third base, then scored on a single to center by Mariano Duncan.
Somewhere in the midst of that debacle, the crowd began to boo Hershiser, a rare happening. Before this game, Hershiser had only one wild pitch all season, but he had three against the Phillies and six walks.
"I just didn't throw the ball well," Hershiser said. "That's how it goes."