ATLANTA — There was no Southern comfort to be found for the Dodgers in the heat of an oppressive Georgia night here Tuesday.
Not even two home runs by Mike Marshall, the league leader, could prevent the Dodgers from ultimately wilting, 4-3, in 10 innings to the Atlanta Braves, who found their own relief in the Dodger bullpen.
In such circumstances, the coolest of heads would have been hard-pressed to keep theirs. Steve Sax, one of the most excitable of Dodgers, came closest to losing his.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda and coach Manny Mota followed Sax into the stadium tunnel outside of the Dodger clubhouse afterward to make certain he didn't go after an abusive patron sitting behind the Dodger dugout.
"He said some very, very bad things about my family," Sax said. "But I just went into the tunnel to cool off. If I wanted to get the guy, I would have gone right into the stands."
Lasorda said he didn't know where Sax was headed. "He said he wanted to talk to somebody," the manager said.
Sax was more distressed that he couldn't come up with the ground ball Ken Oberkfell hit just beyond his reach with two out in the 10th that tied the score, 3-3. A moment later, Rafael Ramirez dumped an opposite-field double in front of Marshall's futile dive, and the game was over.
"I felt I should have caught the ball," said Sax, who was shaded toward the middle and probably was being unduly harsh on himself. "Well, just say I wish I would have caught it."
Without a doubt, Tom Niedenfuer was wishing the same thing. The Dodgers had tried to sweat this one out after Marshall's second home run and 17th of the season had given them a 3-2 lead against Atlanta reliever Paul Assenmacher in the top of the 10th.
But Ken Howell, who came out for his third inning of work, walked the first man in the bottom of the 10th, Claudell Washington, on four pitches. After a sacrifice, he also walked Dale Murphy to put the winning run on base.
Lasorda summoned Niedenfuer, but things only got hotter.
Niedenfuer retired Bob Horner on a ball to the warning track in right. That was the hardest ball the Braves would hit off the Dodger reliever, but the last one that would register as an out.
Next came Oberkfell's roller to the right side, then Ramirez's ball just inside the line and in front of a sprawling Marshall.
"On some nights those three balls that were hit are three outs," said Niedenfuer, who first got up in the bullpen to warm up in the sixth before getting the call. "Tonight they didn't happen to be.
"There was a ground ball that the second baseman just missed. He was playing up the middle, and it was hit to where the second baseman is playing a lot of the time."
Marshall, whose home runs cleared the scoreboard in left, more than 400 feet away, said he had no chance at catching Ramirez's ball.
"It just wasn't hit very hard, that was the problem," Marshall said. "I had him shaded that way. The trouble wasn't getting to the line, it was just short of me.
"But what can you do? That's the game."
Howell, who had walked one batter in both the eighth and ninth but came away unscathed, admitted he was drained by the 10th, but when Lasorda asked him, he said he could go another inning.
"It drains you out," Howell said of the humidity, "but they had to pitch in it, too.
"I beat myself out there. It was a tough game to lose, when we battle back to go ahead and I walk them right back."
The Dodgers had 12 hits, but while Marshall's two home runs produced two runs, the other 10 hits--and five walks--could produce just one other.
The Dodgers left 11 runners on base, two each in the second, fifth, sixth and seventh. They chased Brave starter Rick Mahler when they loaded the bases in the seventh, but the Braves got out of it when Franklin Stubbs' line shot was turned into an inning-ending double play by Horner.
And so the Dodgers could do no better than a 2-2 tie for Bob Welch, who gave up seven hits in seven innings, survived another liner back to the mound--a smash by Murphy that struck him in the back of the left leg--but was unable to end a string of eight starts without a win.
"Sure it would have been nice to win six or seven of those," Welch said, "but except for two games we've been blown out of, all of those games we've been right in there.
"Tonight was a perfect example. We didn't get the big knock when we had the chance to. I could have helped when I came up with the bases loaded, but I didn't."
The loss left the Dodgers in fifth place, five games behind Houston and a half-game behind San Diego. Atlanta closed to within three games of the Astros.
The Dodgers may have suffered an additional loss--Bill Madlock came out of the game with a strained groin after beating out an infield hit in the fifth. He is listed as day-to-day.