A number of people, including quite a few Philadelphia fans, were ready to give up on 35-year-old slugger Mike Schmidt when he spent the early part of this season in a deep slump.
About 250 at-bats ago, the six-time National League home-run king became comfortable at the plate. Schmidt, who will be 36 late next month, is once again making pitchers uncomfortable.
Schmidt hit his 23rd home run, and 17th since the end of May, in the second inning Friday night at Dodger Stadium, then hit a two-run triple in the eighth inning that broke a 2-2 tie and helped give the Phillies a 5-2 victory. The loss cut the Dodger lead in the West to seven games over idle San Diego.
With Bob Welch and Kevin Gross locked in a tight pitchers' battle, Schmidt came to bat with two on and two out in the eighth. He worked the count to 3 and 2, then fouled off three pitches.
On the next pitch, he hit a line smash to center. Ken Landreaux, who looked as if he might have a chance to make the catch, went back in a hurry but merely waved at the ball as it hit about a foot from the bottom of the fence.
"I gave it my best shot," Landreaux said. "When it left his bat, I didn't think I would get as close to it as I did. I took off as fast as I could, and it just landed over my head. It was really hit hard."
When Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda was asked what he thought about Landreaux's effort on the play, he countered with a question. "What did you think?" he asked.
Schmidt said that when he hit it, he thought there was a good chance that Landreaux would catch it. "But you can't question a center fielder's play on a ball hit that hard," Schmidt said.
Welch (9-3), in losing his second straight game after winning eight in a row, gave up only four hits in 7 innings. The first was Schmidt's home run, a drive to right field that just cleared the glove of a leaping Mike Marshall at the 360-foot mark, and the fourth was Schmidt's triple.
The other two were singles by the improving Juan Samuel. On his first single, which led to the Phillies' second run, Samuel was fooled by a Welch pitch in the fourth inning but blooped it into right-center. He then stole second base, went to third on a ground-out by Von Hayes and scored on a ground-out by Glenn Wilson to tie the game at 2-2.
For the second night in a row, the Dodger offense was confined to a pair of solo home runs.
In the bottom of the second inning, the first pitch by Gross drove Guerrero back. But on a 2-and-2 pitch, Guerrero drove the ball well up into the left-field bleachers for his 31st home run, one away from his career high, to tie the game at 1-1.
One out later, Marshall was given the hit sign on a 3-and-0 pitch for the second time in two nights. His line drive hit the screen connected to the foul pole in left for his second home run in two nights and his 17th homer of the season.
Home runs with nobody on base plagued the Dodgers early in the season, when they were having trouble winning, and the phenomenon seems to be recurring. They have hit 100 home runs this season, and 65 of them have come with nobody on.
Despite losing two in a row to the pesky Phillies, who lead them by a 6-4 margin this season, the Dodgers still lead the Padres and Cincinnati by eight games in the loss column and seemingly only have to start hitting again to wrap up the West.
The Phillies, making a run at fourth place in the East, now trail Chicago by a game. They have to feel good about the late-season hitting of Schmidt and the improvement of such young players as Samuel, Hayes, Wilson and Rick Schu. And their big guy on the mound, Steve Carlton, is due back soon.
Dodger Notes Enos Cabell injured his arm making a diving attempt to catch Jeff Stone's infield hit in the eighth inning Thursday night and was out of the lineup. Manager Tom Lasorda had Bill Russell penciled into the original lineup, then found that Bob Bailor had recovered from his shin injury, and Bailor took over at third base. . . . In the 10-inning loss Thursday night to the Phillies, the Dodgers left at least one runner in scoring position in every inning except the fourth and seventh, the two innings in which they scored. . . . Fernando Valenzuela (16-8) will try for his 10th consecutive victory tonight. He will oppose the Phillies' Shane Rawley (10-6). Rawley shut out the Dodgers last week at Philadelphia. . . . Phillie third-base coach Dave Bristol sees a bright future for the club. "We have a lot of good young talent," he said. "We continue to show improvement."