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Dodgers Bottom Out Again in 6-4 Loss

July 05, 1986|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI | Times Staff Writer

Bring them your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free from last place, and the Dodgers, those patriots, will do what they can.

Never ones to waste a perfectly good Fourth of July, the Dodgers made like Statues of Liberty Friday night and freed a couple of cellar dwellers from their unwanted positions.

First, they lost to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4, before a Dodger Stadium sellout audience of 46,315. By doing so, the Dodgers (35-44) traded places with the Cincinnati (34-42) for rights to the bottom of the NL West. How nice of them.

And with the loss, the Dodgers, now 8 1/2 games behind the division-leading San Francisco Giants, also were able to help the Pirates, who no longer have to be known as sole owners of last place in the NL East. Pittsburgh now shares it with the Chicago Cubs.

The Pirates and Reds can send thank-you notes to Dodger starter Fernando Valenzuela, who lost his second consecutive decision, but in a manner different from the first.

It was just last Sunday that Valenzuela was on the wrong end of a 2-1 score against the Houston Astros after allowing just one earned run and five hits in eight innings. He had deserved better.

Friday night, Valenzuela lasted eight innings and gave up just five hits, but he also sprinkled in five walks, three of which later resulted in Pirate runs. "I don't know the next time you'll see that again," Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said of the walks.

And as usual, there was the now almost obligatory Dodger error thrown in for fun. Equally obligatory, the error became a run.

"We're doing the best we can," first baseman Len Matuszek said.

The Dodgers, 2-9 in their last 11 games, are 1-1 in this home stand, which includes games against the Pirates, who are tied for the second-fewest wins (31) in the majors, as well as the St. Louis Cardinals (32 wins) and the Cubs (31 wins).

This might be the time for the Dodgers to take advantage of their schedule. After the All-Star break, they play just 30 of their final 73 games at home.

"I think what we have to do is come back and win some of these games," Matuszek said. "But the guys that are filling in are doing the best they can."

The evening began nicely enough for the Dodgers. Right fielder Mike Marshall, stiff back and all, had returned to the lineup after a one-game absence. And Valenzuela was on the mound, which is usually good news for Lasorda.

Valenzuela began the night as one of two pitchers in the league with a chance to win an 11th game. But like Rick Mahler of the Atlanta Braves, who also had that chance, Valenzuela faltered.

You would never have known it by his opening performance. Valenzuela (10-6) struck out the side in the first inning and appeared sharp. "I was hitting the corners," he said.

But in the second, he walked Tony Pena and gave up a double to Mike Diaz. The latter's hard grounder slipped by third baseman Jeff Hamilton, who slapped at his glove in disgust as the ball rolled toward the left-field corner and Diaz made his way to second. Valenzuela then walked Jim Morrison to load the bases.

They didn't stay loaded for long as Mike Brown grounded out, allowing Pena to score, Diaz to move to third and Morrison to move to second. Rafael Belliard singled up the middle, the ball just missing Valenzuela's outstretched glove, to score Diaz and Morrison.

The 3-0 lead grew to 5-0 in the third inning as Johnny Ray reached first base on a fielding error by rookie shortstop Craig Shipley. Pena walked, as did Diaz, and then Morrison singled to left field to drive in two more runs.

Valenzuela, never much of a postgame orator, anyway, explained his misfortune like this: "The hitters hit the ball better."

But the Pirates got only five hits. "Yeah, but a lot of walks," he said.

The Dodgers cut the score to 5-2 in the fourth as Franklin Stubbs bunted safely with one out and, one batter later, Matuszek homered to right off Pirate starter and winner Mike Bielecki (5-5).

Valenzuela didn't allow a Pittsburgh runner to reach second base again until the eighth, when Diaz--him again--homered to left on a 3-and-2 pitch. That made the score 6-2.

The Dodgers tried a rally in the bottom of the ninth as Alex Trevino singled to begin the inning and moved to third on a double by Hamilton. Bill Russell grounded to first, which scored Trevino and sent Hamilton to third. Pinch-hitter Ed Amelung struck out, but Steve Sax, who went 2 for 5 and is hitting .318, doubled home Hamilton to cut the lead to 6-4. But Reggie Williams popped out to first to end the game.

Thank you very much, Pirate Manager Jim Leyland said.

"It was good to beat an outstanding pitcher," he said. "Wins for us are golden."

As they are fast becoming for the Dodgers.

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