The Dodgers rallied around Pedro Guerrero in an extraordinary pregame meeting Wednesday evening, then mounted another rally behind Mike Marshall and his rediscovered home-run swing.
But while they closed ranks around Guerrero, the Dodgers again fell short of the New York Mets, losing, 7-5, when Marshall's bid for a game-tying home run fell within the considerable reach of Darryl Strawberry, the Mets' 6-foot 6-inch right fielder, for the last out of the game.
Marshall, whose three-run home run helped bring the Dodgers back from a 6-0 deficit in the fifth inning, hadn't hit a home run since connecting off Dennis Eckersley of the Chicago Cubs on July 13, not long after his back became as pliant as a two-by-four.
But with Bill Madlock aboard on a two-out walk from Met reliever Jesse Orosco in the ninth, Marshall sent another drive toward the wall in right.
"I thought it had a chance," Marshall said, "but I didn't get the ball up, and the pitch was up.
"When I hit a ball good and the pitch is up, I usually hit it on a line. When the ball is down and I hit it good, it carries. This was a fastball up and over the plate."
And Strawberry, already playing Marshall deep, strolled back and casually reached up to the top of the fence, bringing Marshall's ball back to earth with him.
Just as casually, the Mets had their first sweep in Dodger Stadium since 1968, although given the condition of the Dodgers, they found little to gloat about.
The Dodgers not only lost three straight games, but they also lost two players on back-to-back nights. Reliever Tom Niedenfuer went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained right hamstring, 24 hours after shortstop Mariano Duncan went on the 21-day list with a broken bone in his left foot.
"They've had so many injuries," said Met third baseman Ray Knight, who had two of the Mets' 13 hits.
"You see guys like (Reggie) Williams, (Jose) Gonzalez, (Jeff) Hamilton. It looked like a Triple-A team out there.
"Those guys never would have played on the Dodgers in years before."
Knight, asked how many Dodgers have been on the disabled list, was taken aback by the number--14, two players twice (Bill Madlock and Guerrero).
"No team is deep enough for that," Knight said. "We're not."
Maybe that's why the Mets--who have an 18 1/2-game lead in the National League East--seemed to lose interest against the Dodgers, who are now tied for fourth with Atlanta in the West, 11 games behind Houston, and are only a game ahead of last-place San Diego.
They had leads of 5-0, 4-0, and 6-0, in that order, in all three games, and let the Dodgers climb back in it each time.
Wednesday night, the Dodgers knocked out ex-teammate Sid Fernandez, a 13-game winner, in a rally begun by those alleged minor-leaguers, Williams and Hamilton, who both singled in the fifth. Steve Sax followed with a double for one run, an infield out scored another, then Marshall drove a ball over the 385-foot sign in center.
But the Met bullpen shut them down again, even though the Dodgers put runners in scoring position in each of the last three innings. In nine innings in this series, the Dodgers failed to score a run off a Met reliever.
You could say the Met bullpen was as inaccessible to the Dodgers as the Dodger clubhouse was to reporters before the game.
Not only was the clubhouse closed, but Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda also took the unprecedented precaution of barring reporters from the hallways outside the clubhouse.
"We wanted to make sure nobody snuck in," Lasorda said.
The hour-long meeting was called by Lasorda, who had reason to believe that Guerrero was about to become the object of some negative publicity, the source of which was teammates' off-the-record criticism of the disabled Dodger star.
While Guerrero met in Dodger executive offices with Fred Claire, the team's executive vice president, and Al Campanis, the vice president, Lasorda challenged the rest of the team to confront Guerrero directly with their concerns, rather than go to the media.
Guerrero returned to the clubhouse while the meeting was in progress. A couple of players suggested Guerrero take better care of himself physically, but no one confronted him in more direct terms.
One player in the meeting said that a reporter (not from The Times) had admitted to having a vendetta against Guerrero. Teammates urged the player to tell Claire of that conversation.
Other than that, it was just another balmy night at Chavez Ravine. Palm trees, Dodger dogs, and palace intrigue.