For those who have been kept awake at night worrying about their beloved Dodgers, a couple of nerve-racking questions were answered during Tuesday night’s 5-3 victory over the San Diego Padres:
No, these are not The Miracle Dodgers. They will not win the National League West. Atlanta’s 10-3 victory over Cincinnati took care of that mathematical formality.
Yes, Mike Piazza would eventually hit that 29th home run. That was almost as certain as the Dodgers not winning the pennant, but . . .
No buts about it. Piazza hit not only his 29th home run, but also his 30th. He also doubled and either scored or drove in four of the Dodgers’ five runs.
Piazza had been zero for September in terms of home runs when he went to the plate in the first inning. That also translated to 39 at-bats since his last home run Aug. 31.
“He might be trying a little bit too hard,” Manager Tom Lasorda had said. “He’ll get it.”
Lasorda ordered Piazza to skip batting practice. Take a break.
“I may not take BP the rest of the year,” Piazza said.
He boomed a 1-0 pitch from pitcher Doug Brocail over the right-center field fence in the first inning for his 29th home run, thus turning the Padre rookie into the answer to a trivia question sure to be popular on 21st-Century board games:
Who gave up the home run that enabled the Dodgers’ Mike Piazza to break Matt Nokes’ record for home runs in a rookie season by a catcher?
Brocail was having enough trouble in that first inning without becoming to Matt Nokes what Tracy Stallard and Al Downing were to Babe Ruth. The Dodgers had sent two batters to the plate, Brett Butler and Jose Offerman, and already led, 1-0, on two bunts.
Brocail fielded Butler’s bunt and threw wildly to first, Butler reaching on what was first called an error but later changed to a hit. After Butler stole second, he scored on Offerman’s bunt. A play was made on Butler, but the ball caromed off third baseman Derek Bell’s glove into left field and Butler scored.
Even though the Padres were clearly susceptible to the bunt, Piazza chose to deposit Brocail’s second pitch over the fence and get Nokes off his mind . . . and out of the record book. He hit his second home run in the eighth against Tim Mauser.
“It seems kind of like I had a monkey on my back,” Piazza said. “When I hit the first one, it took the weight off. I’d been pressing a little bit. This game will make you struggle.”
With Orel Hershiser on the mound for the Dodgers against the National League’s version of “All My Children,” the rest of the game was almost as much of a formality as the rest of the season. Only four players in the Padre lineup had ever faced Hershiser.
Hershiser (12-12) entered the eighth with a two-hit shutout and 17 consecutive hitters retired before he weakened and needed help from Todd Worrell, who got the last five outs for his second save.