A pity, isn't it, that Steve Garvey, who was the first to shake Pete Rose's hand when Rose broke Ty Cobb's career hit record, wasn't in Dodger Stadium Saturday when Pedro Guerrero hit his 33rd home run, tying a Los Angeles Dodgers record for most home runs that was once Garvey's alone.
But Garvey, who is playing out the string in Atlanta with the rest of the defending National League champion San Diego Padres, still may get to share in a little slice of Dodger history: the day the Dodgers clinch the 1985 Western Division title.
That moment drew another day closer after Guerrero's eighth-inning home run off Giant reliever Greg Minton provided a cushion in a 3-1 Dodger win that was Jerry Reuss' 14th victory of the season and reduced the Dodgers' magic number to four.
It could come as soon as Monday or Tuesday, when the Padres are here for two games, although that will take some cooperation from Rose's Cincinnati Reds, who remained as dogged as their manager by beating Houston, 5-2, for their 11th win in the last 13 games.
The last-place Giants remained as cooperative as ever, losing a club-record 56th road game in typically flawed fashion, although new Manager Roger Craig wasn't quite so embarrassed Saturday as he was the night before.
"I hate to lose," Craig said, "but at least we looked like a major league ballclub today."
That may be true, but it was easy to understand why they're a last-place ballclub. Catcher Alex Trevino threw away Candy Maldonado's bunt single for an error that started the Dodgers on their way to a two-run third inning. Giant pitcher Dave LaPoint did his part by walking Enos Cabell with the bases loaded to force home the first run. Bill Madlock followed with a sacrifice fly to account for the other.
The Giants, who left 10 runners on base, got no sympathy from Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia, who blocked the plate in the top of the eighth and tagged out rookie Mike Woodard, who at the time represented the tying run.
Woodard, one of two batters in the inning walked by Dodger reliever Ken Howell, was on second base when David Green hit a ground ball off reliever Tom Niedenfuer that was on its way to right field until second baseman Steve Sax cut it off with a diving stop.
While Sax scrambled to his feet, Woodard rounded third and headed home, only to have his slide scrambled by Scioscia's left shinguard. That path cut off, Woodard tried going headfirst over Scioscia and tagging the plate with his hand, but plate umpire Billy Williams called him out.
The Giants disputed the play--sort of. Woodard was already walking back to the dugout and had to be escorted back to the argument by manager Craig, who took him by the elbow.
"It's almost like he (Craig) said, 'We're having a discussion and we need a certain number of fellas there,' " umpire Williams said with a chuckle afterward.
Williams claimed that Woodard never touched the plate, that he had reached beyond it. Woodard said his hand was on the plate before Scioscia tagged him. Scioscia said it didn't matter whether Woodard got the plate with his hand or not; he already was out by then.
"As soon as I caught the ball I put the tag on him," Scioscia said. "And when I went to show the umpire the ball, I put a tag on his leg again."
Guerrero then put the finishing touch on the Giants when he golfed a low, inside pitch from Minton into the left-field bullpen for his first home run since Sept. 3.
He has missed 17 games since then with a sprained left wrist but has hit in all five games after returning (8 for 19, a .421 average).
"I knew the first game I played I wasn't really ready," said Guerrero, who belied that fact by collecting three hits against the Astros last Monday. "But the way I feel, as long as I can go out and swing the bat, even if I'm not 100%, I'll go out and play.
"You learn to eat when you're a baby and you never forget. When you learn to be a .300 hitter, you hit .300, no matter what."
The games Guerrero missed with his injuries (he also had a bad back in July) may very well cost him the National League's Most Valuable Player award.
Craig, for one, admires Guerrero ("That guy can hit home runs off anyone," he said), but from what he's seen of the Dodgers, another player may be equally important. And this one's a rookie, Mariano Duncan.
"That shortstop, he might be the most valuable player in the league," Craig said. "He came out of nowhere, and look where they (the Dodgers) have come. They have great pitching, but he stabilized the whole ballclub."
If he were picking a sandlot team, Craig was asked, whom would he take first, Duncan or Guerrero?
"I'd find a way to pick both of them," Craig said. "You could build a franchise around either one of 'em.
"Guerrero, you know he's a great player. This other kid is going to be great."
Niedenfuer, who had been splendid until the last month of the season, walked two Giants in the ninth but struck out Dan Gladden on three pitches and got Woodard on a tapper to Sax for his 18th save.