Dodgers Show Drive of ’55
On a sweltering afternoon when Sandy Koufax received the loudest ovation, Johnny Podres threw out the ceremonial first pitch, Carl Erskine played the national anthem on harmonica and Don Newcombe looked on approvingly from beneath his Panama hat, it figured to come down to pitching.
Especially with Roger Clemens on the mound for the other team and Jeff Weaver, a free agent at season’s end, more than up to a duel with the seven-time Cy Young Award winner.
And it was Weaver who looked the ace Sunday, throwing eight scoreless innings in the Dodgers’ 1-0 victory over the Houston Astros in the series finale at Dodger Stadium.
Oscar Robles’ two-out single to left field off reliever Chad Qualls in the eighth inning drove in Jason Repko for the only run. Closer Duaner Sanchez picked up his fourth save.
With 32 games remaining, the Dodgers (59-71) are 5 1/2 games behind San Diego in the National League West. But for one day, the attention was on the club’s glorious past and not its mundane present or murky future.
“You put on the Brooklyn uniform and Don Newcombe’s number is on your back, you better go out there and put on a performance,” said Weaver, who wears No. 36, the same one Newcombe wore from 1949-51 and 1954-58.
The Dodgers, who moved to Los Angeles in 1958, were wearing Brooklyn jerseys and hats to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the franchise’s first World Series title. Many luminaries from that team were introduced during a pregame ceremony on the field, after they’d worked the Dodger clubhouse.
Current Dodgers bum-rushed the old-timers for autographs. And then they were dismantled by Clemens. You couldn’t have blamed them had they approached the future Hall of Famer for his signature ... during the game.
But Clemens ran out of gas after giving up two hits and two walks in six innings, throwing 101 pitches in the 92-degree heat.
Houston stranded nine runners, leaving the bases loaded in the second, and was shut out for the eighth time this year in one of Clemens’ starts.
“I don’t bat an eye at stuff like that,” Clemens said of the Astros’ scoring no runs in his no-decision. “That’s baseball. I’ve had my share of wins. If I worried about games I should have won, I’d probably drive myself crazy.”
Houston (68-62) thought it was in business in the seventh when Craig Biggio, batting for Clemens, was hit on the arm by a Weaver pitch with one out and a runner on first. But plate umpire Doug Eddings ruled Biggio did not attempt to get out of the way, though he did not call the pitch a strike.
Biggio then popped out to right, and both he and Houston Manager Phil Garner were tossed by Eddings in the ensuing argument.
“Until he has a ball thrown at him, he’ll never know how tough it is to get out of the way,” said Biggio, who has been hit a major league-record 271 times.
Weaver, though, agreed with the call.
“He was over the [inner] third of the plate,” Weaver said. “And with that elbow pad, there’s no incentive for him to move.”
By the time Weaver (13-8) departed, the right-hander had given up seven hits and struck out a Dodger season-high 10 batters without a walk.
Garner was less than impressed, saying, “I don’t think it was Weaver, as much as it was us.”
Still, it took the Dodgers’ cobbling together a rally in the eighth against Qualls (3-4) to get Weaver his career high-tying 13th victory.
With one out, Hee-Seop Choi batted for Weaver and went the other way, doubling off the base of the wall in left-center. “I know he throws a lot of sinkers,” Choi said. “I know in a tight game, a 0-0 game, he doesn’t want to throw it inside.”
Two batters later, Robles lined his single to left and pinch-runner Repko scored easily when Orlando Palmeiro could not field the ball cleanly.
Sanchez, making his 68th appearance this season, a career high, survived a rocky ninth to get his fourth save in as many opportunities, keeping the theme of the day on pitching.
“The performance of Jeff Weaver pretty much epitomizes what I’ve been saying since the beginning of last season,” said Dodger Manager Jim Tracy. “What he has meant to this pitching staff, I don’t think there are enough adjectives to describe it.”