Dwight Gooden and Fernando Valenzuela didn't disappoint Tuesday night. But when faced with crossing identical dire straits in the late innings, the 20-year-old Gooden did a larger-than-life number on the Dodgers, while Valenzuela proved mortal to the New York Mets.
It took Gooden just nine pitches to emerge from a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the eighth, Valenzuela didn't last a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the ninth, when the Mets scored three runs to win, 4-1, before a sellout crowd of 49,386 in Dodger Stadium.
Gooden, who struck out a dozen Dodgers, raised his record to 8-3 while lowering his ERA to 1.72. And for good measure, he also had three of the Mets' nine hits off Valenzuela, the last knocking out Fernando with two out in the ninth.
Valenzuela, despite allowing just four hits after Ray Knight's second-inning home run until the ninth, is now 5-6.
He gave up singles to Keith Hernandez and Gary Carter, then walked George Foster to load the bases. With Tom Niedenfuer warming up in the bullpen, Manager Tom Lasorda went to the mound but elected to stay with Valenzuela.
The Dodger pitcher raced to the first-base line on Ray Knight's chopper and forced Hernandez at the plate. But right fielder Danny Heep, making only his second start against a left-hander while filling in for injured slugger Darryl Strawberry, drove Ken Landreaux to the warning track in right with a sacrifice fly that scored Carter.
Rafael Santana then singled off Valenzuela's glove for another run, and Gooden's third single made it 4-1.
Gooden took only nine pitches, all strikes, to work his way out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth. He struck out Greg Brock on three pitches, retired Mike Scioscia on a first-pitch foul pop to Mets catcher Gary Carter, and struck out Terry Whitfield on five pitches, all strikes.
Whitfield, fanning for the third time, was Gooden's 11th strikeout of the game and 100th of the season in just 93 innings. It was the fourth time in 12 starts this season Gooden has been in double figures in strikeouts, and the 19th time in his career.
Last season, when Gooden led the majors with 276 strikeouts, he claimed his 100th victim in his 14th start, on June 22.
The Dodgers had loaded the bases in the eighth on Steve Sax's single up the middle and a hit-and-run single by Landreaux. When Landreaux took second on the throw, Gooden issued an intentional walk to Pedro Guerrero, whose sixth home run of the season accounted for the Dodgers' only run.
Gooden, who struck out 14 Giants in his last start, had vaporized Guerrero twice while fanning nine Dodgers through the first seven innings.
But with two out in the sixth, he threw an 0-2 fastball about letter high to Guerrero, who drove it over the 385-foot sign to tie the score, matching Knight's home run off Valenzuela with two out in the second.
With Mike Marshall (shoulder), their leading run-producer, and R.J. Reynolds (hamstring), their leading hitter, both out of the lineup with injuries, the Dodgers didn't figure to have an abundance of chances against Gooden. That's why Lasorda was seen muttering to himself after Steve Sax got himself picked off by Gooden after opening the first with a single. A man with less self-control than Lasorda would have been screaming after Landreaux followed the pickoff with a base hit.
By the fifth, the Dodgers had resorted to bunting their way on, with Whitfield and Dave Anderson laying down consecutive short strokes. Whitfield tapped out; Anderson lay down a beauty down the third base line, but was left stranded.
With two on and two out in the seventh, Lasorda let Valenzuela hit for himself. Gooden set him down swinging.
Mets Manager Davey Johnson matched Lasorda's faith in Valenzuela by sending up Gooden to bat leading off the eighth. Gooden, who had hits his first two times up, bounced to second.
The inning before, Danny Heep had doubled with two out, leaving the Dodgers to decide whether to pitch to the Mets' No. 8 hitter, Rafael Santana, or put him on and face Gooden. Valenzuela struck out Santana on three pitches for his fourth strikeout of the game.
Gooden, who limits his interviews to postgame sessions on the days he pitches, was at Dodger Stadium at 7:30 a.m. Monday, filming a segment for a TV comedy to be shown on NBC the night before the All-Star Game, assuming there is one. Gooden's catcher for the segment was Mark Cresse, the Dodgers' bullpen coach.
Another early morning participant was Steve Garvey, who'd driven up from San Diego the night before.