Remember a month or so ago when the Dodgers climbed from 4 1/2 games behind to 9 1/2 in front in the National League West? Those days they could do no wrong.
Everything went their way. The bloopers dropped in for base hits, the opposition's line drives were out, and whenever they needed a big hit, Pedro Guerrero provided it.
Those things aren't happening now. The well-known Law of Averages has caught up with the Dodgers. The breaks favor the other team right now. And the lead in the National League West is only six games with 35 games remaining.
Guerrero, instead of hitting the expected home run, looked at a called third strike with the bases loaded in the ninth inning Sunday at Dodger Stadium, and the Philadelphia Phillies held on for a 4-1 victory and a four-game sweep. It had been 30 years--when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn--since the Phillies last swept a four-game series from the Dodgers.
John Denny and two relievers held the punchless Dodgers to six hits and three of those were by the newest Dodger, Bill Madlock. Madlock hustled out a first-inning double and added two singles. He also handled eight chances without an error at third base.
Jerry Reuss (12-9) was the loser. Except for a hanging breaking ball that John Russell hit into the seats in right-center in the seventh inning, the veteran left-hander pitched an excellent game.
Through the first five innings, the Phillies hit almost everything on the ground. But, an indication of the kind of luck the Dodgers are having, the two balls hit in the air, were responsible for the first two Philadelphia runs.
Both were among the nine hits the talented Juan Samuel had in the series. In the first inning, Samuel broke his bat on a pitch and blooped the ball over second to drive in the first run. With two out in the third inning, Samuel hit a pop fly into right-center. Right fielder Mike Marshall didn't see the ball until it was too late and it dropped untouched as the speedy Samuel raced around to third. Next, Reuss fooled Mike Schmidt so badly that the Phillie slugger topped the ball. It was hit so poorly that Madlock's only chance was a barehand grab and he couldn't make the play and Samuel scored.
Denny, in improving his record to 9-11 for the season and his lifetime record against the Dodgers to 3-7, threw almost all breaking balls. He used his fast ball as a waste pitch and threw three curves--slow, slower and slowest.
Most of the day the Dodgers were doing what they do best--leaving runners on base. They left no fewer than 13 in all. Twice, they had the bases loaded with one out and didn't score. In the fourth inning, pinch-hitter Terry Whitfield struck out and Reuss grounded out.
The Dodger run came in the fifth without benefit of a hit. The speed of Mariano Duncan was responsible. He walked to open the inning and went to third on a wild pitch, scoring on Ken Landreaux's sacrifice fly.
It was the only run the Dodgers scored in the last 25 innings of the series.
The big chance to do something came in the ninth. On a hot, humid day, the type you get often in Philadelphia, only 29,029 fans attended. They spent most of the day booing, but those who remained to the bitter end had a chance to do some cheering.
Don Carman took over for the weary Denny in the ninth. Bill Russell opened with a walk and, after Duncan was called out on strikes, Candy Maldonado singled. Rookie Dave Shipanoff replaced Carman and, to the delight of the fans, Madlock greeted him with his third hit and the bases were loaded.
The Dodgers couldn't have asked for a better script. Guerrero, the man who led the Dodgers on their drive to the top, stepped to the plate. There were visions of a grand slam and a dramatic victory.
Not this time. On a 2-and-2 pitch, umpire Lanny Harris called Guerrero out on strikes. Then, Greg Brock fouled to the catcher on a 3-and-2 pitch and it was all over.
Said a downcast Guerrero: "The pitch was low and inside. The umpire said it was a good pitch and his word counts."
In the four games, Samuel, developing into the star the Phillies thought he would be, outscored the Dodgers, 6-5. He also drove in six runs on a 9-for-15 performance.
Samuel is one of the growing list of athletes not on speaking terms with the press. Phillie Manager John Felske makes a glowing spokesman.
"Barring injury, Juan Samuel is going to be one of the great ballplayers in the game," Felske said. "Last year when he was a rookie and having problems at second base, we were advised to put him in the outfield. But, in the last couple of months, he has been playing brilliantly at second base.
"For a little guy (5-11, 168 pounds), he has amazing power. He can put the ball out of any park in any direction. He showed it here with a homer to right and one to left."
The Phillies would probably like to work out a schedule in which they played more games at Dodger Stadium. In both of the last two seasons, they were 5-1 here.