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Dodgers Struggle to 1-0 Win : Coleman's Early Error Is Latest Cardinal Sin

July 08, 1986|GORDON EDES | Times Staff Writer

There were priests in Peter O'Malley's private box and Cardinals on the field Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

Take it as an article of faith from St. Louis Manager Whitey Herzog: The priests probably are better hitters.

What else can Herzog believe after Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda used six pitchers to shut out St. Louis on two hits, 1-0, before a crowd of 31,976.

Four Dodger pitchers actually threw the ball, including Alejandro Pena, who went five innings for his first win since Aug. 12, 1984.

Lasorda also used Fernando Valenzuela as a pinch-hitter for Pena--Valenzuela beat out an infield hit--and Orel Hershiser as a pinch-runner for Valenzuela.

"That's the most expensive base-running I've ever seen," said Tom Niedenfuer, one of three Dodger relievers to retire the last dozen Cardinals in order.

"It took us $2.6 million to get a runner to third. He should have scored."

Only one runner scored, and it wasn't Hershiser, who was erased on the front end of a pitcher-to-home-to-first double play in the sixth after Valenzuela had gone from first to third on Steve Sax's hit-and-run single.

"I think Tommy thought he risked one guy long enough, he might as well try another," Hershiser said of the manager's decision to take out Valenzuela.

The game's only run came in the first, and it was unearned, befitting two starting lineups which came into the game with as many home runs combined (21) as Toronto's Jesse Barfield, the major league leader, has hit by himself.

Ken Landreaux singled off Bob Forsch with two out and scored from first on Len Matuszek's hit-and-run base hit when left fielder Vince Coleman booted the ball.

"I went to get it and I didn't come up with it--therefore I screwed up," said Coleman, whose logic was unerring where his play was not.

With Franklin Stubbs joining the list of infirm, the Dodgers had only two starters who were holdovers from their Opening Day lineup: Sax, who had three hits, and Landreaux.

"Tommy had his Vero Beach lineup," Herzog said.

But the defending National League champions had worse. Instead of Jack Clark, who has torn ligaments in his thumb and will be out until September, the Cardinal cleanup hitter was one Alan Knicely, who began his pro career as a pitcher and had no home runs and one RBI since being recalled from the minors June 25.

Last year's batting champion, Willie McGee, also was out with a sore knee. What was left had a combined total of eight home runs.

The Cardinals still can run--their 132 stolen bases lead the league. But when they ventured into the fast lane Monday, there was Dodger catcher Alex Trevino to act as a speed trap.

Andy Van Slyke and Tommy Herr, the only Cardinals to hit safely--Van Slyke singled in the second and Herr singled in the fourth--were both erased by Trevino.

The Cardinals, winners of 101 games last season, have been shut out 10 times this season, three times in the last eight games. This was the 53rd time this season they've been held to three runs or fewer in 80 games.

"Gawd almighty, I wish I knew what the hell to do about it," Herzog said.

Perhaps, someone suggested, Monday's twilight starting time (5:05) had something to do with the lack of hits.

"We've had a lot of these at 7:30," Herzog said. "I didn't even think of the time."

Time drags on for the Cardinals, already 23 games out of first place in the National League East.

For Pena, meanwhile, this was a second chance this season to show what he could do as a starter, and for the second time, the results were encouraging. He did, however, admit that he felt a twinge in the back of his right shoulder, one reason Lasorda lifted him after throwing 72 pitches.

"When I start again, I'll be OK," Pena said. "As I get more strong, I'll be all right."

The Cardinals sounded impressed.

"Today he wasn't throwing real hard," said Ozzie Smith, the Cardinals' only .300 hitter, "but when he threw his fastball, it had some rise to it.

"He's so smooth when he gets to the top of his delivery, then all of a sudden the ball's on you. He was effective."

And the Dodgers were winners of two in a row for the first time since June 19, which is also the last time they were at .500. They're 4-12 since then, which is why they're in last place in the West, eight games behind the Giants.

But at least, they're still in the race, something the Cardinals can't say. How does Herzog plan to survive the season's last three months?

"Get drunk," he said.

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