Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda had been yelling all day. It started in the morning, when he yelled at some players who were late to the stadium, fining them as they walked in the clubhouse door. It continued in the afternoon, when he hollered at home plate umpire Brian Gorman after the Houston Astros' Greg Swindell struck out the side in the fourth inning, one of Swindell's best performances of the season.
But Lasorda's performance was a lot a more entertaining to the Dodger Stadium crowd of 33,461, a couple of whom actually stuck around as the Dodgers turned a routine 3-1, fourth-inning deficit into a droning 12-4 loss.
After Gorman ejected him, Lasorda kept blasting away, throwing his cap in the dugout and even yelling at the third base umpire before he finally left the dugout. Nobody was safe. It clearly was his best tirade of the season and should have helped fire up his players, who looked hapless.
But the tirade had little effect. Lasorda should have been glad to leave this game. With bad defense and a shaky bullpen that for some reason included Tom Candiotti, the Dodgers managed to lose a game in which Mike Piazza hit two solo home runs and Raul Mondesi homered and hit two doubles. Piazza now has 32 home runs and 99 runs batted in this season, but after a game like this, he didn't feel like celebrating.
"I'm continuing to swing the bat well, but I made a (fielding) mistake," said Piazza, whose home run total is the fourth highest ever by a National League rookie. "This kind of game is numbing."
Piazza and Mondesi made consecutive errors on one play in the fourth inning to hand the Astros two runs, enabling them to break a 1-1 tie. But there were numerous Dodger misplays that won't show up in the box score.
It ruined a good--though short--performance by Pedro Martinez (10-5), who made his second start this season. Martinez, who has excelled in the set-up role, either wants to be a starter or a stopper, seeing no future as a middle reliever.
"I would never be afraid to use him as a stopper," Lasorda said, adding that the club already has enough closers. "What he does for two or three innings, he could do for one."
After giving up two consecutive singles to lead off the game, Martinez settled down and retired eight of the next nine Astros before the fourth inning, which he might have escaped with one run. But in the Dodgers' fifth inning, with baserunners on first and third base and no outs, Martinez was pulled for a pinch-hitter.
Martinez was relieved by Candiotti, who will get only one more start this season so that Martinez can get another start.
Candiotti has been the team's best and most consistent pitcher, faltering only in his last two starts. It's Martinez who usually relieves Candiotti, and that seems to work better. Candiotti gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings Saturday.
After Swindell (11-13) struck out the side in the fourth inning--all on called third strikes--Lasorda went into the clubhouse and reviewed the pitches on tape. He hadn't wanted to yell at umpire Gorman, because he is good friends with Gorman's father. Lasorda then came back to the dugout and yelled to Gorman that the pitches were outside.
"And he tossed me," Lasorda said. "And then, I forgot about his father and I being friends."