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Dodgers Just Can't Hit, Can't Explain It Either After 12-Inning Defeat

May 12, 1985|MIKE LITTWIN | Times Staff Writer

It was old news, but that didn't make it any less depressing. The Dodgers sat quietly--almost mournfully--in their clubhouse late Saturday afternoon and tried to explain.

They're not hitting, they said to a man. But soon, they said. Soon.

That they're not hitting goes without saying. As further evidence, the Dodgers could put forward their 12-inning 5-2 loss to lowly Pittsburgh Saturday before 42,597 fans. Some of those who stuck it out to the end felt obligated to boo.

Tony Pena put the game away with a three-run homer against Tom (the Flamingo) Brennan, as the Dodgers had to go one pitcher too deep into their bullpen. The Flamingo, who had already lost his place in the starting rotation, may lose his job altogether, having allowed 12 runs in his last 6 innings. By comparison, condors are flourishing.

"Yeah, this one was tough," second baseman Steve Sax said in the quiet of the clubhouse. "I think everybody would enjoy an 11-2 game. What we need are a couple of blowouts."

One blowout would probably do. Three runs would be good.

"It has to start soon," Manager Tom Lasorda said.

Actually, it doesn't have to. When the Dodgers won Friday night, they scored one run. Their big rally Saturday came in the seventh inning, on three walks and a bloop single.

"We had the bases loaded and nobody out . . . " Lasorda said, his voice trailing and his head shaking in dismay.

The Dodgers are hitting .188 with runners in scoring position, and it doesn't seem as if they're doing that well. They've scored more than three runs only 7 times in their last 24 games. That they have won 12 of those 24 is testimony to the effectiveness of their pitching staff.

The pitching was up to standard Saturday. Jason Thompson, who is most of what is left of Pittsburgh's attack, got to starter Orel Hershiser for a two-run home run in the fourth, and that was all until the 12th. In fact, the Pirates never got a runner as far as second base until Thompson opened the 12th with a double.

"With our pitching, we don't have to score much," Al Oliver said, "but we have to score more than this."

Even against the Pirates, who don't score too often themselves. They took a 20-inning scoreless streak into Saturday's game. Before the 12th, they had scored in only 1 of 31 innings.

Hershiser went seven innings, Tom Niedenfuer and Ken Howell two innings apiece in relief. The way the two teams were hitting, it appeared the game might last indefinitely.

Brennan put an end to that. When the graying career minor leaguer made the Dodgers this spring at age 32, it was a very nice story. But now the story seems to be headed for a not so nice ending. He has been rocked his last three times out.

Thompson hit a one-bouncer to the wall in center. Sixto Lezcano followed with a bunt single that wouldn't roll foul. Then Pena hit his second homer of the season, a shot deep into the left-field stands. Bill Russell could only watch it fly overhead.

"I wouldn't say that Pittsburgh is my favorite team," said Brennan, whom the Pirates bombed nine days earlier. "I wish I had an excuse. Give them the credit. I'll take the blame."

The Dodgers seemed to have a lot going for them as the game began. Pittsburgh starter Jose DeLeon (0-5) is a pretty good pitcher who usually finds a way to lose. In his last 20 starts, he is 1-14. And the Dodgers got to him in the first inning on a walk to Sax, Mariano Duncan's single and Mike Marshall's sacrifice fly.

But the Dodgers, who lead the league in runners left on base, didn't really threaten until the seventh. At that point, DeLeon went into his traditional, late-inning breakdown, walking Mike Scioscia and Greg Brock on eight pitches.

Manager Chuck Tanner went to his bullpen and called on John Candelaria, his reluctant ace reliever. Candelaria proceeded to walk pinch-hitter Bob Bailor to load the bases with none out and the Dodgers trailing by a run.

Pinch-hitter Candy Maldonado struck out, bringing up pinch-hitter Bill Russell, the Dodger dean and, as of old, a clutch hitter. He blooped a single into very shallow right field, just where no one could reach it, and Scioscia scored.

Then, Sax hit a grounder to the pitcher, forcing a runner at the plate, and Duncan flied to center. End of rally.

"It's not just the middle of the order," Sax said. "It's not just them guys. It's everybody. Today, it was me."

On Saturday, the Dodgers left nine runners. They were 1 for 8 with runners in scoring position. They put two runners on base in the 11th against Al Holland, but Maldonado's fly ball to deep left field stayed in the park.

When will the hitting slump end? These are the same Dodgers, after all, who scored so infrequently a year ago.

"Manana," said Pedro Guerrero to his teammates as he headed for a shower.

Maybe, but certainly no sooner.

Dodger Notes The Dodger-Pirate series ends today at 1:05 p.m., with Bobby Castillo (0-0) making his first start for the Dodgers against Lee Tunnell (0-3). Castillo is starting in place of Brennan . . . In Brennan's last three apperances, he has a 16.19 earned-run average . . . The Dodgers are averaging 2.8 runs a game, 11th in the National League. Their team earned-run average of 2.72 is second in the league . . . The Pirates had lost five in a row and are 2-10 on the road . . . Jose DeLeon is used to getting little support from his teammates. They scored single runs in his first two starts (both coming after he had come out for a pinch-hitter), and they were shut out in his next two . . . DeLeon struck out four, giving him 55 for the season, one behind league leader Dwight Gooden . . . The Pirates came into the game tied for last in homers with eight. The Dodgers are last in the league in homers allowed with 10.

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