Mike Piazza, proving not only that he is the best-hitting catcher in the game, but also that he can still play defense, silenced some critics Sunday night in perhaps the finest game of his career.
Piazza went four for four, with two doubles and two homers--one a grand slam--and seven runs batted in. He also qualified for the batting lead (with a .367 average) and slugging percentage lead (.651) and moved to second in on-base percentage (.419).
Anyone have any complaints now?
“People can say what they want about my catching,” Piazza said, “but I’m out there every day busting my [tail]. I’m in the lineup because they need me. I don’t complain about not getting days off because I know they need my bat.
“I just want to win.”
Piazza’s performance was so stunning that his teammates simply laughed aloud each time he hit the ball during the Dodgers’ 9-1 rout over the Phillies.
“He hit the ball tonight as hard as I’ve ever seen in my entire life,” Dodger second baseman Delino DeShields said. “Did you see those balls he hit? The last ball he hit [433 feet], nobody even got up to shake his hand.
“Damn, that’s crazy right there.”
Said Dodger first baseman Eric Karros: “He’s in a zone. Hopefully, we can ride him all the way. The power is just ridiculous right now.”
Piazza said his biggest thrill was tying the Veterans Stadium record for RBIs by an opponent. The others were Johnny Bench in 1973, George Hendrick in 1982 and Will Clark in 1991.
“That’s pretty exciting for me,” Piazza said, “because I grew up watching games in this stadium. This stadium has played an important part in my life. I’ve watched a lot of great teams and a lot of great players, and to be part of that is special.”
Injuries earlier in the season will probably prevent Piazza from having any chance at the triple crown, even with 26 homers and 71 RBIs, but that batting title hope is alive.
Piazza leads Tony Gwynn of the Padres, .367-.357, with 30 games to play and has a chance to become the first catcher to win the batting title since Ernie Lombardi in 1938.
“I’m not going to get too excited about it until the last week of the season,” Piazza said, “but wouldn’t it be something if it came down the last weekend between Tony and I when we’re playing one another?
“Now that would be fun.”
Dodger coach Bill Russell suffered the same knee injury as third baseman Tim Wallach while playing in 1975 and wound up playing 11 more years. Yet, Russell was sidelined two months and the knee was still swollen upon his return.
“It’s tough to replace your everyday starter,” Russell said. “But [Dave] Hansen can do it. He had the job earlier in the season. We’ll see what happens.”
Said Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda: “We’re going to miss him, no question about it, but we can’t let one man dictate the fate of this ballclub.”
Said Hansen: “I’m just going to play the way I can play, and hopefully, that’ll be enough.”