They were down by six runs to the Houston Astros entering the eighth inning, but the Dodgers still thought the game was within reach. After all, they had come back to win in 11 of their 14 victories.
Now, make that 12.
On Monday night at Dodger Stadium, Tim Wallach hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning to cap a seven-run rally and deliver a 9-8 victory.
The home run scored Mike Piazza, whose two-run pinch-hit single had cut the lead to 8-7.
“On the bench they were saying, ‘We are only three down, and six down, let’s pick it up, we can do it,’ ” Manager Tom Lasorda said. “It was a great victory and a great one for Wallach. There’s a guy who everybody said, ‘Why are we playing him?’ I feel bad for the fans who left, they missed a most exciting victory.”
By the sixth inning, most of the crowd was more interested in what was happening in the stands than on the field.
No longer able to boo Tom Candiotti, who was chased after 2 1/3 innings as the Astros built an 8-2 lead, and with no beach balls to be found, the crowd of 36,260 soon dissipated.
These Dodgers, though, put together a three-run eighth inning and had one last chance in the ninth against Mitch Williams.
Carlos Hernandez, who was playing to give Piazza a rest, singled to lead off the inning and Mitch Webster followed with a grounder to left. Then, with two out, Piazza pinch-hit for Delino DeShields and singled to left to pull the Dodgers within a run.
Wallach stepped to the plate and hit a 1-and-0 pitch deep into the left field seats. The Dodger players spilled out on the field in celebration. Piazza, usually reserved, pumped his fist. Wallach took a curtain call.
“That’s the way this team is, we don’t quit,” said Wallach, who has 10 home runs and 27 runs batted in. “Sometimes we come back and win and sometimes we don’t, but we always keep it interesting.”
Said Williams (1-3): “It’s the way it’s been all year, I have thrown like . . . I don’t know when I’ll get the ball again, it probably won’t be too soon after tonight.
“I didn’t give up one hit on a fastball, everyone of them was a slider. It’s called losing with your second-best pitch. In my head I don’t know why I didn’t throw a fastball (to Wallach).”
The Dodgers scored three runs in the eighth after Astro starter Darryl Kile, who had held them to two runs and five hits, walked Brett Butler and Jose Offerman to lead off the inning.
Kile was relieved by right-hander John Hudek. DeShields, who had singled and scored a run in the first inning, battled Hudek to a 3-and-2 count before getting a single to right to score Butler.
Hudek walked Wallach to load the bases before Henry Rodriguez hit a line drive in the right-center field gap that Steve Finley dived for and caught. Offerman scored, and DeShields moved to third before scoring on a sacrifice by Eric Karros.
For Wallach, who has struggled the past three seasons, it was a personal victory. “After the last three years, it means that much more,” he said.
The Dodger bullpen held the Astros scoreless for 6 2/3 innings. Roger McDowell, after pitching a perfect eighth inning, loaded the bases in the ninth with one out, but Al Osuna (1-0) bailed him out.
And DeShields, who moved from the eighth spot to the third in the batting order, went two for three with a walk, scored two runs and stole two bases, giving him 11 this season, which is third in the league.
“I batted him eighth to try and take some of the pressure off him,” Lasorda said of Deshields, who was batting .191 entering the game.
“I moved him into the third spot to get him out of the rut and give him some confidence.”
Lasorda has talked about the cohesiveness of his team all season, citing a good mixture of youth and veterans who never give up.
“They think they can beat anybody,” Lasorda said.
The last couple of starts for Candiotti have been frustrating, to say the least, and he had a lot to say. In Montreal last Wednesday, Candiotti got the hook in the fifth inning after the Expos had scored to make the score 2-2.
Lasorda thought Candiotti’s knuckleball wasn’t working properly, but Candiotti, who never asked for an explanation, was angry.
“It’s kind of like when you are a little kid and you get sent to your room, what are you going to do about it?” Candiotti said. “You just go back out there and go at it again.”
But Monday night, Candiotti needed no explanation. When pitching coach Ron Perranoski walked to the mound with one out in the third inning, it was clear that Candiotti’s knuckleball, which sometimes requires time to settle in, was completely out of control. Hernandez, making his third start of the season, got enough work in for a couple of games. Piazza picked a good night to get some rest.
“I knew I had a good knuckleball, but getting it close or somewhere where Carlos could catch it was tough when it’s off like tonight,” Candiotti said.
Candiotti, who started the season 3-0, including two complete games, has been troubled by a cracked fingernail since his third start, but he has only had one bad outing.
That came a couple of weeks ago against Montreal, when he gave up seven runs in 3 1/3 innings. By then, Candiotti had thrown three wild pitches, hit a batter, and given up a home run, yielding eight runs, seven earned.