Even with as much practice as they've had this season, the Dodgers elevated the art of cooling off after a tough loss to new standards following defeat No. 66, a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Phillies Wednesday afternoon before 23,543--the smallest Dodger Stadium crowd of the year.
When the season began, the Dodgers requested five minutes of privacy after every game, win or lose, even though Baseball Commissioner Peter Ueberroth ruled that such therapy sessions were unnecessary, except in unusual circumstances.
The Dodgers lost in typical fashion Wednesday, an error by shortstop Dave Anderson leading to an unearned run in the ninth inning.
Yet afterward, the clubhouse doors remained closed for 16 minutes.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda might not be able to field a lineup any more fearsome than the one he sent out Wednesday, in which pitcher Bob Welch had more home runs--one--than three of the other starters--Anderson, Bill Russell and Jose Gonzalez. But in the last week, Lasorda has shown that he can seal off a clubhouse with the best of them.
A week ago Wednesday, there was the hourlong, pregame team meeting revolving around Pedro Guerrero, who subsequently booked passage home to the Dominican Republic.
No such intrigue kept the doors closed Wednesday, according to team officials.
"I forgot," a Dodger publicist said, when finally permitted entry to the waiting media. "I'm embarrassed."
Around the Dodgers, amnesia may be turning into an epidemic. Lasorda, a self-described bad loser, has routinely ignored the agreed-upon limit.
It's understandable, perhaps, that a man who once had the luxury of four 30-homer-a-year sluggers in his lineup--remember the days of Dusty Baker, Ron Cey, Steve Garvey and Reggie Smith?--might be reluctant to discuss the likes of Wednesday's lineup, in which Steve Sax, who has hit five home runs, reigned as the leading power threat and in which the center fielder, rookie Gonzalez, is still looking for his first hit in broad daylight.
It's nothing personal, Lasorda claims.
"In the heat of battle, I say a lot of things I don't mean," Lasorda said the other day. "I do that with my own family. I get very upset, very irritable, very arrogant, and I shouldn't be like that. . . .
"I'm not thinking about time. Five minutes could be 10, could be 15. I'm really not aware of it. I'm yelling and screaming in order to let my feelings out. I don't keep anything in, I don't believe in that. That's when tension begins. . . .
"It's nothing intentional. I know you people (reporters) have a job to do."
Sax actually did his job, too, lifting the ball far enough into the air to drive in Anderson with a sacrifice fly in the sixth inning for the Dodgers' only run.
But the Phillies, who scored on a couple of singles and Glenn Wilson's sacrifice fly in the first, denied Welch his 100th win as a Dodger in the ninth, after Anderson couldn't hang on to Jeff Stone's bouncing ball up the middle.
Welch went to a 3-and-0 count on the next batter, Milt Thompson, whereupon Stone stole second base. Welch came back to strike out Thompson for the second out of the inning, and got two quick strikes on Von Hayes, only to have Hayes punch the next pitch into left field for a single.
Russell charged the ball, but his throw to the plate was high, and Stone literally knocked himself out to score.
"I don't know what happened," said Stone, who caught his spikes and tumbled over catcher Alex Trevino, rapping his head in the process. "For about five or six seconds, I was out cold."
And Welch, typically, was out in the cold again, suffering his 10th loss to go along with 6 wins and 11 no-decisions.
"Terribly frustrated," he said. "Mad? Of course I was mad."
The madness, though, is about over for the Dodgers, who will limp off to the East after a 3-6 home stand that settled any question of their involvement in the race in the National League West.
Perhaps that's why the clubhouse stayed closed. There's not much left to talk about.
Philadelphia rookie Bruce Ruffin held the Dodgers to five hits through eight innings for his seventh victory against three losses. Of the first 10 Dodgers, nine grounded out and Welch struck out before Bill Russell singled with one out in the fourth. The next batter, Steve Sax, grounded into a double play. "He's a lot like Bob Knepper (of Houston)," Mike Schmidt said of the Phillie left-hander. "He may throw a heavier ball than Knepper. And he has no fear at all of any hitters." Schmidt, asked if he'd seen the likes of the Dodger lineup he faced Wednesday, shrugged and said: "I don't know why (Mike) Marshall and (Bill) Madlock, those guys aren't playing. You tell me." Madlock pinch-hit in the ninth and singled Len Matuszek to third. Marshall ran for Matuszek, who has a strained hamstring, before Phillie reliever Steve Bedrosian struck out Mike Scioscia to end the game.