MONTREAL — The hit came too late to be worth anything more than a souvenir, but Pedro Guerrero figured he was entitled to at least that much Wednesday.
So, on a night the Dodgers were fighting to stay out of last place at a time of year when--with Guerrero healthy--they're usually fighting for a pennant, Guerrero asked first-base umpire Gerry Davis for time.
The umpire, in turn, signaled to Montreal pitcher Bob McClure, who moments before served the 0-and-1 pitch that Guerrero lined into left field for his first hit of 1986, an eighth-inning pinch single in the Dodgers' 5-3 win over the Montreal Expos.
McClure lobbed the ball back to Guerrero, who clutched his memento and trotted off the field, as pinch-runner Jose Gonzalez took his place.
There were dreams of placing other treasures on his mantel--a championship trophy, perhaps, or even a Most Valuable Player award. But now, four months to the day since he ruptured a tendon and the Dodger season along with it, at least Guerrero had something, however small.
His smile in the Dodger clubhouse afterward told it all.
"We told him, 'Now you're not going to go 0 for 1986,' " Enos Cabell said, describing the reception Guerrero received in the dugout afterward.
"It might not be important for him to play, but it's important for him to hit, and swing the bat. He can have a good feeling now, to know he can swing the bat and still hit.
"To lay off a whole year without a hit, and swinging bad, you start doubting yourself.
"But that's one thing Pete has always been able to do. He can hit."
"He might not be able to slide," Cabell said, "but he can hit. He can't slide a lick."
Guerrero still can't run well enough to play, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said.
"But he said he can swing the bat," Lasorda said, referring to a meeting he had with Guerrero--at which Dodger vice-president Al Campanis also was present--when it was decided to take Guerrero off the disabled list.
Asked if he'd put Guerrero in the lineup before the season ends, Lasorda said: "Only if he can play without pain."
Guerrero tried playing once before, exactly one month earlier, and it was a disaster. He started in left field and lasted just four innings, striking out twice and limping after fly balls.
He confined himself to pinch-hitting thereafter, but following three futile attempts, the Dodgers returned him to the disabled list. He was 0 for 7 with four strikeouts before Wednesday night's hit.
"It would have been tough to stay out a whole season without doing anything," said Bill Madlock, who drove in three of the Dodgers' runs with two singles and a sacrifice fly.
Rookie Ralph Bryant accounted for the other two runs with his second home run in three games, an opposite-field shot to left field with Franklin Stubbs aboard in the fourth, helping Rick Honeycutt post his 10th win against 9 losses.
Guerrero came to the plate for Stubbs in the eighth.
"(Mike) Scioscia told him the monkey was off his back now," Madlock said. "He got a hit, so he'll probably be in the lineup Friday."
The Dodgers, who avoided going 0 for New York only by beating the Mets in their last chance Sunday, were in similar danger in Montreal, especially after the Expos took advantage of Dave Anderson's first-inning error for two unearned runs off Honeycutt.
But the Dodger left-hander lasted seven innings, allowing just seven hits--all singles--before his shoulder stiffened in the hockey-like weather.
Dodger leadoff man Steve Sax, meanwhile, triggered three rallies with base hits and capped a four-hit night with a double in the ninth. Sax also stole two bases and scored twice.
"This is the time of a year when the season plays mind games with you," said Sax, who raised his average to .317 from .312, the lowest it had been since June 27, when he was at .311.
"There have been times I've been overanxious and off-balance up there. Tonight, I decided I'm going to hit the ball right back up the middle, and it helped me."
The Dodgers dropped another half-game behind the first-place Houston Astros, who won twice Wednesday, and trail the Expos by 13 games, the furthest behind they've been since the end of the 1984 season. They're a half-game ahead of Atlanta and San Diego, the bottom of the NL West.
Guerrero's hit was of no tangible help Wednesday, only a reminder of what might have been.
Dodger Notes Ken Howell, the loser in Monday night's 7-6 defeat, struck out four batters in two innings of relief to collect his 12th save . . . The Dodgers finished their season series with the Expos with a 5-7 record, only the second time they've lost a season series to the Expos in Montreal's 18-year existence . . . Larry See made his big league debut, pinch-hitting for Ralph Bryant in the eighth, and reached base on an error . . . The Dodgers activated three other players from the disabled list, although none of them--Ken Landreaux (knee), Jerry Reuss (elbow) or Tom Niedenfuer (hamstring)--appear ready to play. Landreaux has been taking batting practice and may be available for pinch-hitting duty next week; Reuss threw batting practice for the first time Tuesday, so he's still some time away, and Niedenfuer said he doesn't expect to be ready before next week at the earliest.