NEW YORK — Tom Lasorda strode out of the third-base dugout in the fourth inning Saturday afternoon as rapidly as a rush-hour commuter emerging from the subway on Seventh Avenue, and in about as foul a mood.
Halfway to the mound, the Dodger manager jerked his left arm skyward, a gesture similar to one often used by someone whose mother has just been insulted.
Lasorda, however, was only summoning his bullpen for an alternative to Orel Hershiser, of whom the Dodger manager already had seen enough in what would be the Dodgers' 6-3 loss to the New York Mets.
And Lasorda wasn't waiting until he got to the mound to do it. He didn't even wait for Hershiser to finish pitching to Keith Hernandez, yanking his right-hander with a 2-and-0 count to the Met first baseman.
Hershiser didn't wait, either, flipping the ball to the manager instead of handing it over in conventional fashion.
By this time, the crowd of 44,040 in Shea Stadium and a national TV audience may have suspected that Lasorda's distress was caused by something other than indigestion.
Perhaps it was the 3-and-0 fastball in the third inning that Hershiser had grooved to Hernandez, who had promptly singled in a run, tying the game, 2-2.
Or perhaps it was the fourth-inning walk that Hershiser had issued to Met third baseman Howard Johnson, who hadn't had a hit off the Dodgers all year.
Or perhaps, on the third batter after Johnson, it was the two-run bloop single that Hershiser had given up to pitcher Rick Aguilera, a hit that broke the game open and sent the Dodgers to their ninth straight defeat by the Mets.
But just when things seemed darkest for the Dodgers, hilarity was unintentionally introduced.
Lasorda, seeing no one approaching from the Dodger bullpen, raised his left arm again. And again.
"The left-hander," he screamed at Terry Tata, the third-base umpire whose job it was to pass on Lasorda's signal to the bullpen.
"Which one?" Tata screamed back.
"The left-hander," Lasorda said, increasing the decibel level even more.
Bill Madlock, the Dodger third baseman, finally interceded. He looked down to the bullpen, where Dennis Powell and Ed Vande Berg, oblivious to the commotion, were still warming up.
Powell is left-handed. So is Vande Berg.
"Which left-hander?" Madlock said he shouted at Lasorda. "The black one or the white one?"
Oh. Lasorda wanted Vande Berg, who completed a walk to Hernandez to load the bases but retired Darryl Strawberry on a fly ball to end the inning.
By then, however, another Dodger loss--this one dropping the team seven games below .500--had been etched in black and white, despite four hits by limping first baseman Greg Brock.
"I'm just upset at everybody and everything," Lasorda said afterward. "I'm upset at the way we're playing, the way we're not scoring, the way we're not winning.
"It bothers me. It bothers me a great deal."
Lasorda denied that Hershiser, who gave up five runs on six hits in just 3 innings, was especially bothersome.
"I'm not upset at Orel--I'm just upset about everything in general," Lasorda said.
When pressed on specifics, however, it was apparent that Lasorda considered Hershiser to be something other than a victim of circumstance.
The hit by Aguilera, for example.
"The pitcher? I don't think the pitcher should be getting a hit," Lasorda said.
For another example, the third-inning hit by Hernandez, who is batting .435 against the Dodgers this season and is batting .454 in his career against Hershiser.
"He (Hershiser) should be aware, every time a guy is 3-and-0, when it is a hitting situation," Lasorda said. "I usually holler out from the dugout when I think it is. This was one time I didn't holler out, because I figured he had to know the guy's hitting."
Hernandez had no trouble figuring Lasorda's state of mind when he saw the Dodger manager headed for Hershiser in the middle of Hernandez's next at-bat.
"I knew he was mad," Hernandez said.
Asked if he thought Lasorda had shown up Hershiser by taking him out in mid-count, Hernandez shrugged and said: "I don't know, but he had a right to be mad."
For his part, Hershiser said he bore no ill will toward Lasorda.
"He's jerked it many a time before," the pitcher said of Lasorda's hand signal to the bullpen. "I walked off the mound mad at myself. . . .
"He could have taken me out before that batter (Hernandez). I was kind of shot, and he saw that.
"He gave me the benefit of the doubt with those first two pitches, then he made his decision."
And the Mets had theirs--win No. 87 this season and their fifth victory in a row, putting them 45 games above .500.
"Hershiser doesn't seem to have the pop he had last year," Hernandez said.
Neither, of course, do the Dodgers.