His resources dwindling as rapidly as his number of healthy players, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda circled the wagons Wednesday night in Dodger Stadium.
"All night long I was singing that song to myself, 'Lord, Help Me Make It Through the Night,' " Lasorda said.
But with Rick Honeycutt displaying unexpected stamina and Orel Hershiser emergency relief, in the end the Dodgers not only survived, they outlasted the Houston Astros, 1-0, in 11 innings before 29,789 chilled patrons.
The game's only run was delivered by Mike Marshall, who rifled Frank DiPino's first pitch to him for a single to score rookie Mariano Duncan, who became the Dodger second baseman of the immediate future when it was announced that Steve Sax will become the fifth Dodger player to go on the disabled list this season.
Duncan had singled to open the 11th against DiPino, the fourth Astro pitcher of the night, and advanced to second on Bill Russell's sacrifice. After Ken Landreaux struck out, Pedro Guerrero was walked intentionally, bringing up Marshall in a situation identical to the one he had faced in the ninth.
That time, however, he struck out against reliever Dave Smith, chasing a split-fingered fastball that was outside the strike zone, for his third straight strikeout and 13th in 33 at-bats this season.
"Right now I'm not that concerned about the strikeouts," Marshall said. "They're being careful with me.
"I'm a free swinger, and they're throwing me a lot of breaking balls, working me. When I'm getting my pitch, I'm hitting the ball.
"I want to make contact, I don't want to strike out, but what's the difference in how I make outs. I'm generally going to strike out 100 times a season. (Atlanta's Dale) Murphy struck out 130 (134) times last season, (Philadelphia's Mike) Schmidt struck out over 100."
What he has to do, Marshall said, is to force the opposition to pitch to Guerrero instead of around him.
"For our team to do well, Pete has to hit and get his pitch," Marshall said. "He can put up numbers and win games single-handedly.
"But if they pitch around him, at least they know they have to contend with me."
The Astros, who came into the game with a league-high .294 average and had collected at least 10 hits in five of their first eight games, found they could not contend with Honeycutt, who had lasted just 3 innings in his first start last Friday.
Honeycutt startled himself by going eight innings Wednesday, yielding just three hits, two infield singles and Jose Cruz's bloop double in the second.
"Going into the game, I knew we needed at least a six- or seven-inning performance from me," Honeycutt said. "The bullpen has really been pushed all season, which has made things tough.
"The question was how far I could go. But I had a fairly easy eight innings. I didn't have to pitch under any strain, and I got a lot of first- and second-ball outs."
And when Honeycutt was finally lifted, for pinch-hitter Terry Whitfield in the eighth, in came Hershiser, who had lasted just four innings Monday night because of a stiff back.
Hershiser set down all nine Astros he faced, and did not allow a ball out of the infield, for his first win of '85.
"I was a completely different pitcher," Hershiser said. "That was the me of last year."
Hershiser, asked if he preferred to play role of late-inning savior, answered quickly. "No, thank you."
Houston starter Mike Scott, a former Hawthorne High and Pepperdine star, had finished just five of 113 career starts, the lowest average of any active pitcher with more than 100 starts. But Scott has come up with a new pitch, the now-omnipresent split-fingered fastball, and he allowed the Dodgers just four hits in the first eight innings.
The closest the Astros came to scoring was in the sixth, when with Bill Doran on second and two out, Thon bounced a ball into the hole between third and short. But Guerrero cut the ball off with a lunging stop, executed a 360-degree turn, and threw Thon out at first in the night's finest defensive play.