SAN FRANCISCO — Tom Lasorda didn't bother to check his horoscope on his 58th birthday Sunday. There's a division to be won, after all, which leaves no time for the Sydney Omarrs and Jeane Dixons of this world.
But if Lasorda wanted to read meaning into the Dodgers' 5-3 win over the Giants before a crowd of Steve Sax's Sacramento relatives and other displaced Dodger fans in Candlestick Park, 10,297 in all, this was it: You can't go wrong no matter what goes wrong.
The Dodgers managed only four hits all afternoon. Mike Marshall, the cleanup hitter, struck out four times. Starting pitcher Orel Hershiser spotted the Giants three first-inning runs by throwing away a bunt for a two-base error and then throwing away an 0-and-2 pitch for a two-run home run by Bob Brenly. And the crowd booed when they played "Happy Birthday" for Lasorda over the public address system.
No cause for celebration there. Make a wish, Tommy.
But before the last-place Giants could blow out the candles, the Dodgers decided to have a party, after all. Ken Landreaux and Bill Madlock hit home runs off Vida Blue, with Madlock's leadoff shot in the seventh tying the score, 3-3.
And the deciding run in the seventh came gift-wrapped: Blue tried to pick off Candy Maldonado, who had singled, and threw the ball away, Maldonado taking third. Then Steve Sax hit a fly ball to right that hit ex-Dodger Ron Roenicke in the glove and popped out.
"I just messed up that's all," Roenicke said.
Until that blushing moment, Roenicke had been the defensive star of the series, making four difficult catches.
"He's one of the best outfielders I've ever seen," Sax said. "I couldn't believe it."
On a day in which the Dodgers reduced their magic number to nine with 13 games to play, Lasorda was ready to believe anything.
"In this game, the only thing that's certain is that nothing's certain," he said.
If there has been a sure thing for the Dodgers this season, it has been Hershiser, who won his ninth straight decision and ran his record to 17-3 by shutting out the Giants on three hits until Tom Niedenfuer entered in the eighth.
The Dodgers have won 24 of Hershiser's 32 starts this season. In his last six starts, he has allowed just five earned runs in 48 innings for an earned run average of 0.94 in that time. For the season, his earned-run average actually rose two-hundredths of a point Sunday to 2.06, second only to the Mets' Dwight Gooden (1.57) in the major leagues.
"To have a streak like I've had and which Fernando (Valenzuela) had earlier, the team has to pick you up," Hershiser said. "We could have folded when we were down, 3-1, in the first and you could see that I didn't have my good stuff, but we didn't."
Lasorda lifted Hershiser in the eighth after Mike Woodard beat out a bunt single and Hershiser followed with a wild pitch. In came Niedenfuer, who had given up runs in six of his last seven appearances.
"You can't think about what he's done," Lasorda said. "If you think about what he's done, you'd never make the move.
"You've got to have confidence in that guy, he's done it so many times for you."
Niedenfuer did it again Sunday for his 16th save but first since Sept. 4, retiring the last six Giants in order.
"The last two weeks, as bad as I've been going, he (Lasorda) has still kept going to me," Niedenfuer said. "I've learned in the last two years that this game is so much mental, and that's helped to keep my confidence up."
The Dodgers made maximum use of their four hits, as all four resulted in runs. In addition to the two home runs and Maldonado's single in the seventh, Mike Scioscia doubled in the fifth, was moved over to third by Maldonado's roller to the right side and scored on the first of two sacrifice flies by Sax.
And in the eighth, the Dodgers scored without a hit as Mariano Duncan walked, took second on an infield out, stole third and beat second baseman Woodard's throw to the plate on Enos Cabell's grounder even though the infield was playing in.
"This part of the season, every little thing is important," Maldonado said. "You've go out there and play every game like it's the last game of the season."
For the Giants, the end can't come soon enough. They have a magic number, too: 11. Any combination of Atlanta wins and Giant losses totaling 11, and last place will be theirs, the first time in 102 years a Giant team has finished last in back-to-back seasons.