Managers want players to go through walls for them, and Pirate outfielder Turner Ward is one such player.
Ward broke through the fiberglass wall in right field Sunday while catching a ball hit by Mike Piazza in the sixth inning of the Dodgers' 10-5 victory over the Pirates at Three Rivers Stadium. Dodger outfielder Trenidad Hubbard went through the wall in left field during batting practice before the game, but what happened to Ward was the show-stopper.
He said the experience was as painful as it appeared, but what better way to make the SportsCenter highlights?
"Well, I sure feel like I hit a wall, but I think I'm in better shape than that wall is," said Ward, who stood surrounded by reporters and TV cameras in the Pirate clubhouse after the game.
"I saw it once on the highlights [on the scoreboard screen], and it was like, 'Did that just happen?' I went up to make the catch, and you see what happened after that."
Pittsburgh trailed, 9-0, with one out and runners on first and third. Piazza hit a line drive to right against reliever Elmer Dessens, and Ward raced to the wall.
He sensed he was approaching the wall, but thought he had enough room to make the catch. Of course, he knew he was out of room when the wall separated. Thomas Howard scored from third, giving Piazza the strangest sacrifice fly in his career.
"I was running to first, and when he caught it, I knew I was going to be in the highlight reels for the rest of my life," Piazza said.
Ward bruised his right forearm and elbow on the concrete floor, and suffered minor cuts on the fiberglass shards. He was removed from the game and replaced by Jose Guillen.
"I knew I was going to hit the wall, I just didn't know if I was going to get the ball or not," Ward said. "I felt something strange when I hit the [blue outfield] padding, and the next thing I knew, I was on the other side of the wall."
Pittsburgh Manager Gene Lamont appreciated the effort.
"I've never seen anything like that, and our trainer, who has been here for 20 years, told me he never saw anything like that either," Lamont said. "It's kind of like one of those blooper tapes, when you see Rodney McCray going through that wall in a minor league game."
In 1991, McCray, an outfielder with triple-A Vancouver, crashed through the right-field wall of Portland's Civic Stadium while catching a fly ball.
Hubbard went through the wall in left while fielding fly balls from coach Mike Scioscia. Pirate officials said the fiberglass was installed in 1995 to replace plywood, but Hubbard believes another change is needed.
"I landed on my back, and when I looked up, I saw the fans in the first row looking down at me like they were all doctors," he said "I didn't need any work done, but that outfield wall, now that needs some work.
"I thought it was my strength, and I was feeling pretty good about being able to knock down a wall. But I guess I'll just be the first of many."
Ramon Martinez has many responsibilities as the staff ace, and allowing the bullpen to rest when he pitches is among them.
Martinez takes pride in pitching deep into games, and he considers that a key to his success. He pitched eight-plus innings Saturday night in leading the Dodgers to a 5-4 victory.
"Part of my goal is to always be consistent, so I always want to pitch into the fifth, the sixth the seventh inning," he said.
"My target number is the seventh inning or higher, and that's what I always try to go for."
He has pitched into at least the seventh in five of seven starts.
The streak continues for Pirate outfielder Mark Smith.
Smith, who pinch-hit for reliever Javier Martinez in the fifth inning Sunday, grounded out against Chan Ho Park, making him hitless in 29 at-bats.
He now shares the franchise record with outfielder Jose Gonzalez, who went hitless in his first 29 at-bats to begin the 1991 season.
Former all-star shortstop Ozzie Smith, then with the San Diego Padres, holds the record for position players by starting the 1979 season 0 for 32.
Opponent--Atlanta Braves, three games.
TV--TBS. Radio--AM 1150, KWKW (1330).
Records--Dodgers 16-13, Braves 20-10.
1997 Record vs. Braves--5-6.
DODGERS' HIDEO NOMO (2-3, 4.81 ERA) vs. BRAVES' KEVIN MILLWOOD (3-1, 3.72 ERA)
Update--This is the middle series in the Dodgers' 11-game, 11-day road trip. Nomo opens the three-game series against the National League East Division-leading Braves, which is seemingly good news for the Dodgers. He is the hottest pitcher on the staff, having pitched consecutive complete games. He defeated the Milwaukee Brewers last Tuesday, 6-3, giving up only three hits with 11 strikeouts and two walks. He also hit a solo home run, the first homer in his career. Nomo lost April 23 to the Brewers, 2-1, in pitching an eight-inning complete game. He also had two walks in that game, so team officials are hopeful that his control problems have been corrected. He didn't have a decision against Atlanta last season, but is 2-0 with a 2.04 ERA in 35 1/3 innings in his career against the Braves.
* Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.--Ismael Valdes (2-3, 4.95) vs. Denny Neagle (3-1, 3.27).
* Wednesday, 10 a.m.--Darren Dreifort (0-2, 3.26) vs. Greg Maddux (3-2, 2.42).