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Reds Find They Can Beat Welch at Soft Ball, 3-0

September 14, 1986|GENE WOJCIECHOWSKI | Times Staff Writer

Not even history could help Bob Welch Saturday, much less the Dodgers, who went meekly in a 3-0 loss to the Cincinnati Reds.

Welch had the misfortune to pitch the same day that Red starter Tom Browning decided to tease perfection. After four innings, Browning hadn't allowed a Dodger base-runner or anything resembling a hit.

Meanwhile, Welch wasn't exactly embarrassing himself. He struck out three of the first four batters he faced in the first inning, worked his way out of a potential mess in the second, easily disposed of the Reds in the third and fourth and helped start a double play when a ball richocheted off his glove to end the fifth inning and a Red scoring threat.

This was to be expected. Welch had won his last seven decisions against Cincinnati. No. 8 was only four innings away.

But then came the sixth inning and a two-out, three-run Cincinnati rally. A bloop single dropped over second baseman Steve Sax's head to begin things. Welch walked Eric Davis and then watched as Bo Diaz dinked another soft single to right for a run batted in. Max Venable knocked in Davis with a hard grounder that worked its way past Pedro Guerrero at first, and Diaz scored on Nick Esasky's single past Bill Madlock at third.

"You probably could count the hard-hit balls today on one hand," Red Manager Pete Rose said.

Said Welch: "It doesn't matter how well they're hit. The thing that counts is who comes across the plate."

Browning would need only one of the three runs. After his perfect game was spoiled by a Guerrero line drive to left field in the fifth, Browning allowed just four more singles, including one by Sax.

Sax began the day with a .329 average, two points behind National League leader Tim Raines of the Montreal Expos, and finished it at .328 after going 1 for 4.

For Welch (7-12), the loss was simply another indignity to be suffered quietly and without complaint. He entered the game with an 0.80 earned-run average in his last four starts but had nothing to show for it except a 1-2 record. Now he adds another loss to a puzzling season.

"I'm sure Bobby's frustrated, but he wouldn't tell you," catcher Mike Scioscia said. "I'm frustrated. Bobby's great efforts are just coming up short. If you look at his record, it's just an indication of how the season has gone. Things haven't worked out for a lot of guys. I'm sure he has to go through periods when he's wondering what's going on."

Welch has just four victories since April 30. And in his 30 starts, the Dodgers have provided him with three or fewer runs 17 times, which tends to make life miserable for any starter. Add Browning's complete-game shutout Saturday and you have another reason for Welch's record.

Rose said that Browning (13-12) "is a lot better than a .500 pitcher, and Welch is a lot better than his record indicates, too."

Said Welch: "The most important thing is that you wish your team was doing better and you could change that record. But you have to deal with what is there."

What was there Saturday was this:

--The Dodgers never had a runner reach second base.

--Of the five Dodger hits, only three were hit well.

--The Dodgers had leadoff singles in the fifth and sixth innings, but each time that was that.

Welch left the game in favor of a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the sixth. He had allowed six hits, three walks and the three runs. "The way (Welch) is throwing the ball now is as well as he ever has," Scioscia said.

Dennis Powell arrived in the seventh, only to require rescue by Joe Beckwith. The latter got the Dodgers out of a bases-loaded problem and then struck out the side in the eighth. Tom Niedenfuer, in his second consecutive relief appearance after returning from a hamstring injury, pitched the ninth.

Dodger Notes

Someone hired a plane to pull a message around Dodger Stadium. It read: "Bring Back Yeager, Trade The Bigwigs," a reference to catcher Steve Yeager, who was traded to Seattle last winter. . . . Pedro Guerrero had two of the five Dodger hits. In 21 at-bats this season, he has five hits (.238). . . . Mike Marshall became a pinch-runner when he replaced Guerrero at first base after a ninth-inning single. . . . Reliever Tom Niedenfuer, who had been inactive for about a month because of a hamstring pull, said he felt his arm getting stronger with each appearance. "By Tuesday, I should be 100%," he said. . . . Steve Sax's sixth-inning single Saturday gave him 181 hits for the season, a career high.

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