ST. LOUIS — The Dodgers, who haven't forgotten the shampooing they received on the Busch Stadium carpet last fall, tilted the rug on the Cardinals Wednesday afternoon.
Losers of three straight here in the National League playoffs, the Dodgers completed a two-game sweep of St. Louis with an 8-3 win before a crowd of 31,671, some of whom must have wondered if the teams had swapped uniforms for a day.
The Cardinals, nominated as one of history's finest defensive teams by Manager Whitey Herzog earlier this spring, made five errors. It was the first time in five years that they have booted, bobbled and blundered with such frequency in a single game.
The Dodgers, who came into town with a four-game losing streak and the league's worst defense, left with a season-high 17 hits, 15 of them singles. Steve Sax, the league's No. 2 hitter, had his third straight three-hit game; Mariano Duncan had two hits and two stolen bases, and pitcher Fernando Valenzuela had two hits and a run batted in.
Every Dodger in the lineup got at least one hit, among them Cesar Cedeno, who had two after his average had dipped below .200.
"(Mike) Scioscia told Cedeno it was going to snow in L.A. tomorrow because Cedeno got two hits," Bill Russell cracked.
And the overworked Dodger bullpen, which had been used in all but one of the eight games on this trip, almost got the day off.
Almost, but not quite. Valenzuela, who walked five, hit a batter and threw three wild pitches, eventually needed last-inning help from Ed Vande Berg, who recorded the last three outs.
It's the middle of May, and neither of last season's National League division champions are above .500. The Cardinals are 13-17, the Dodgers 16-19. But at least the Dodgers have the comfort of knowing they don't have the New York Mets in their division.
The Cardinals, who are nine games in back of the Mets, are on the verge of reaching double figures in the games-behind column after a season in which they won 101 games.
"That was a good one, wasn't it?" Herzog said sardonically. "We've had a few.
"We haven't played that bad, but we just haven't hit. There ain't any team in history that is going to win with three regulars hitting under .200."
After the first inning, when they scored two runs and Ozzie Smith advanced three bases on consecutive pitches--wild pitch, wild pitch and passed ball--the Cardinals showed little inclination to hit Valenzuela, who overcame early wildness and struck out nine.
Five straight St. Louis batters took called third strikes from Valenzuela--Jack Clark to end the third, Tommy Herr, Terry Pendleton and Mike Heath in the fourth and Andy Van Slyke for the first out in the fifth.
Herzog suggested that plate umpire Eric Gregg had a strike zone as expansive as his waist size.
"That (bleep)ing Gregg had a good strike zone, didn't he?" Herzog said. "Inside, outside.
"But (Valenzuela) can paint that black pretty good."
Valenzuela laughed at the suggestion that Gregg had played a part in all the strikeouts.
"It's not the first time," Valenzuela said. "It happened in L.A., too." Valenzuela shut out the Cardinals, 3-0, at Dodger Stadium May 3, striking out eight.
"The umpire can miss one, but nine? I don't know."
The Dodgers, given a run in the first when Cardinal starter Tim Conroy threw Mike Marshall's comebacker down the right-field line, buried Conroy under a blizzard of singles.
By the fourth inning, they already had 11 hits. Sax, who singled and scored on Conroy's error in the first, hit a sacrifice fly in the third for the Dodgers' second run. His RBI single in the fourth finished Conroy.
In the sixth, Sax had the Dodgers' first extra-base hit, an RBI double off reliever Greg Bargar. By day's end, he was hitting .353.
"You have to stay positive with Sax," said Bill Madlock, who had two singles and an RBI before giving way to Dave Anderson.
"Everything you talk about has to be positive, make him believe in himself. He's got all the natural ability."
And apparently he has learned a few things, too. Last season, the Dodgers tried with mixed success to get Sax to hit to the opposite field and lay off bad pitches.
Marshall, whose seventh-inning single increased his league-leading RBI total to 26, said: "You can't go up there thinking, 'I've got to hit the ball to right field' every time.
"I think people were pitching Saxie in, pitching him down, whatever, and all pitches aren't meant to be hit to right field.
"Now, when they pitch him in, he turns on the ball or hits it up the middle. And he's become a good situation hitter. With nobody on base, he tries to drive the ball.
"With a runner on third, he hadn't hit a ball in the air in over a week, but this time he hits a fly ball and gets the run in. Good situation hitting."
For the Cardinals, a wretched situation only became worse. Catcher Mike Heath tried to throw out Duncan attempting to steal in the third and hit Duncan on the foot, which probably was just as well because no one was covering second.