MONTREAL — Two or three times a day now, Expo second baseman Vance Law calls his 4-year-old daughter, Natalie, back home in Provo, Utah.
Perhaps on his next call, Law will tell his daughter of the home run he hit off Dodger pitcher Bob Welch with two out in the ninth inning Tuesday night, giving Montreal a 1-0 win before a crowd of 9,201 in Olympic Stadium.
But mostly, Law, the father of three, will be happy just to hear the sound of his little girl's voice.
It was just over three weeks ago that his 7-year-old son, Timothy, wondering why his sister was suddenly in the hospital, turned to his father and said: "Daddy, is Natalie going to die?"
It had taken Law days to be able to utter the words out loud, to say that Natalie had a tumor the size of a golf ball on her brain. At first, when she was just vomiting, Law and his wife, Sharon, thought it might just be the flu.
But when Natalie began to experience double vision and started to lose her balance, putting out her arms just to steady herself, they knew it was more. The neurologist confirmed their fears, and now Law was confronted with the fears of his son.
"That was a real gut-wrencher," Law said quietly Tuesday night. "It tore me up, to have him ask such a profound question."
Law, a Mormon, told his son that yes, Natalie might die, but the doctors were doing everything they could, and what the doctors couldn't do, perhaps their prayers would.
Most of the malignant tumor was removed in surgery on Aug. 18. Doctors are hoping that six weeks of radiation therapy will eradicate the rest.
For now, Vance Law is trying to play baseball.
"This has probably been the most difficult three weeks of my life," he said. "I wouldn't want anyone to have to go through something like this.
"But somehow, you find the strength. We certainly believe in the power of prayer.
"She's doing well at home right now, so it's been very therapeutic for me to come to the ballpark. (But) the life of my daughter is much more important than any baseball game."
That's why Law will soon be going home. He would have left by now, but Expo General Manager Murray Cook asked him if he could stay the week, until Montreal's farm team finished out the playoffs.
"If the radiation therapy does what it's supposed to do," Law said, "she should have a long and healthy life. And if I can aid her recovery, that's the No. 1 thing."
As glum as Manager Tom Lasorda was about the Dodgers' 32nd one-run loss, which dropped them into fifth place, a half-game behind Atlanta and only a half-game ahead of last-place San Diego, he still expressed sympathy for the man who beat him.
"I feel so sorry for the young man," Lasorda said. "I'm sure he'd trade all his home runs and base hits for the life of that child."
The Dodgers had only two hits off Montreal pitcher Floyd Youmans, who was Dwight Gooden's teammate in high school for two years in Tampa, Fla., before his family moved to Fontana, Calif.
Gooden said earlier this season that the 22-year-old Youmans, who is six months older than the Mets' ace, is throwing harder than Doctor K himself.
The Dodgers did little to indicate otherwise. Mike Scioscia lined an opposite-field single in the fourth for the Dodgers' first hit, and Steve Sax grounded a ball through the right side for a single in the sixth.
And rookie Ralph Bryant, who had homered the night before, almost hit a 3-and-0 pitch for another in the fifth, with Expo center fielder Mitch Webster needing to make a leaping catch at the fence, 400 feet away.
But Youmans, even after setting down the last 12 Dodgers in a row, still figured he hadn't done better than break even against Welch.
"Before the game, I was kidding around in the bullpen," Youmans said. "I told the guys I'd try to throw a shutout, and maybe one run would help me."
He didn't get it until Montreal's last at-bat.
Welch had pitched out of a first-and-third, no-out situation in the first inning. He pitched out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the third. Each time, he set down the heart of the Expo lineup--Tim Raines, Andre Dawson and Tim Wallach.
Thereafter, he allowed the Expos one more hit, Raines' two-out single in the eighth, then blew away Dawson for his ninth strikeout of the night.
With one out in the ninth, Tom Foley reached when Sax bobbled his slow bouncer. But catcher Scioscia gunned down Foley attempting to steal, and the game was an out away from extra innings.
Law, however, was just a pitch away from ending it with his fifth home run of the season and first hit off Welch in 11 at-bats in 1986.
"I tried to throw him a fastball way inside and didn't get it in there enough," Welch said. "And I guess he was looking for it.
"I'm sure having a helluva time getting that 100th win."
Welch (6-11) has tried three times for his 100th career win. He lost his last start in the ninth inning, too, on an unearned run to the Phillies. He has won just three times since April, despite giving up just 12 earned runs in his last six starts.
"I can't be satisfied with the results," Welch said, "but I'm throwing the ball very well and I feel great physically.
"This is a rough part of the season. You have to kind of take a different perspective--the fun of playing has to take over."
There was fun while it lasted for Vance Law. He prays there will be much more, too, to share with a 4-year-old named Natalie.
Dodger Notes Steve Sax's stolen base in the sixth was the 200th of his career. But with no outs and Sax on second, the Dodgers couldn't score him, as Floyd Youmans set down Dave Anderson and Bill Madlock on popups and got Greg Brock on a liner to the track in center. . . . The Dodgers made three errors, two by Anderson and one by Sax, giving them 151 in 132 games. . . . Franklin Stubbs struck out in all three at-bats Tuesday. In his last 33 games, Stubbs is batting .153 (17 for 111), dropping his average 36 points, from .270 to .234. In that time, he has just two home runs and five RBIs, while striking out 34 times.