Picking the worst possible time to do nothing with their bats, having difficulty getting the ball out of the infield, the Dodgers were defeated by the Colorado Rockies, 7-3, Tuesday night, still not knowing whether they are fated to become kings, wild cards or jokers.
"We can't afford many more nights like this . . . or any more," said Manager Tom Lasorda, his team now down to its final four games.
Eric Karros spoke the painful truth: "We're right back where we started."
Eligible now to erect a sign outside Dodger Stadium, OVER 90 MILLION SERVED, having just welcomed their 90-millionth customer through the gates, the Dodgers endured the disappointment of seeing thousands of them leave before Tuesday's game was over. If first place felt like old times, so did this.
Many must have sensed that Dodger hitters simply didn't have a four-run rally in them. During this home stand--happy endings aside--the Dodgers have not exactly stung the ball, Tim Wallach going 4 for 29, Delino DeShields 4 for 24, Mike Piazza 6 for 29, Raul Mondesi 6 for 31 and Chad Fonville 8 for 32. Unlucky numbers.
Tonight will be Fireworks Night at the park, but the Dodgers better provide some before the game ends.
Chance after chance against Colorado fizzled out. Roberto Kelly killed one potentially big inning with a double-play ball. The next one died because not one, not two but three Dodgers were unable to put the ball into play, each of them fouling out.
A third rally was snuffed because the pitcher had to bat for himself, popping out. An inning later, Wallach stranded two teammates on base, grounding out.
Then came the sixth inning, the greatest waste of all. This was the round in which the Rockies were on the ropes. That old Dodger hater himself, Don Baylor, had to manage his tail off, at a time when one mistake could be the difference between being a championship season and a heart-breaking one.
The inning began with Vinny Castilla mishandling a grounder to third base by Mondesi, here in the infield that the Rockies consider to be more jagged than most of Colorado's peaks. Dave Hansen's pinch single put Dodgers on first and second, and that's when Baylor made his first pitching change.
He took out Bret Saberhagen, the old Valley Boy who, like Dodger starter Tom Candiotti, grew up being one of those 90 million Dodger customers. Too bad Saberhagen doesn't love the Dodgers any more; now he enjoys beating them, punctuating key outs with a thrust of his fist.
Into the game came Mike Munoz, who obliged the Dodgers by getting none of them out. Butler looped a single to left field. With some daring coaching by Joey Amalfitano, waving him home although the ball had scarcely reached the outfield grass, Mondesi kept coming and scored, standing up, Dante Bichette reminding nobody of Roberto Clemente on the play.
After a walk to Fonville, the Rockies switched pitchers again. Baylor sent for Darren Holmes, a right-hander with an interesting delivery. From the stretch, Holmes poses like a ballerina about to dance "Swan Lake."
But it works for him, obviously. Holmes induced a pop fly to shallow center field from Piazza, the farthest Piazza hit the ball all night. (Walk, foul to the catcher, strikeout, pop out, tap to the mound.)
With two out and the bases occupied by three of California's fastest humans, Garey Ingram, Butler and Fonville, the next batter was Karros, as good a guy to have up in that situation as any, one would think.
Karros, alas, in spite of all his clutch blows, has not hit safely with the bases loaded all season. He took the first two pitches from Holmes for strikes, hung in there, then ripped a 2-2 pitch foul down the left-field line. A foot or two to the right, the whole Dodger season might have changed on the spot.
Instead, Karros fanned, and Holmes, same as Saberhagen, walked off the mound punching the sky.
It was that kind of night for the Dodgers, who left a dozen runners on base. This being September, they had better get those runners home, because some or all of 90 million fans are out there, longing for some fireworks.