HOUSTON — Dodger spirits, having already taken quite a beating in the firing of Al Campanis early Wednesday, were further kicked around on the field later in the day by the Houston Astros.
In what will probably be remembered as one of the worst three-game series in the club's history, the Dodgers lost one vice president in charge of player personnel and three games.
Wednesday began with a team meeting in which owner Peter O'Malley told the players that Campanis had been dismissed because of his negative comments about blacks in baseball on national television Monday night.
Then, before 15,682 at the Astrodome, the Dodger bullpen turned a 3-0 lead into a 7-3 loss with a seventh inning that started badly, got worse and finally resulted in the Astros scoring all seven of their runs.
"I don't think we've ever had anything happen like this afternoon," Manager Tom Lasorda said.
As if all that weren't enough, the Dodgers went limping back to Los Angeles Wednesday night with arguably their two best hitters ailing or injured. It is doubtful that either Pedro Guerrero or Bill Madlock will play in the club's home opener today against the San Francisco Giants.
Guerrero missed his third straight start after suffering a bad reaction to an anti-inflammatory shot in his right knee, which bothered him throughout spring training.
"I haven't run in three days," Guerrero said. "I hit (Tuesday) but not today. I hope to play."
Madlock, who has nursed a sore right shoulder all spring, took himself out of the lineup in the fifth inning Tuesday, and he did not play Wednesday. Having already received two cortisone injections, he is scheduled to see Dr. Frank Jobe today.
Meanwhile, things are anything but rosy in the Dodger bullpen. For the second straight game, Dodger relievers could not hold a late-inning lead. Tuesday night, it was a 4-2 lead that turned into a 6-5 loss. Wednesday, it went from 3-0 up to 7-3 down in a single inning.
By game's end Wednesday, the Dodger bullpen had racked up a three-game mark of 11 earned runs and 10 hits in four innings.
"We came up with three runs in the top of the seventh and we figured . . . " said Lasorda, who didn't need to complete his sentence.
"We couldn't stop them. As I've said many, many times, our starting pitching can carry us into the seventh, eighth or ninth inning with an opportunity to win. We have to take advantage of it."
Instead, the opposite occurred.
Rick Honeycutt pitched six strong innings in his debut, giving up only four hits and striking out nine.
When the Dodgers scored three runs off Astro starter Nolan Ryan in the top of the seventh--two runs scored on Steve Sax's single off Bill Doran's glove, and Mike Ramsey's single scored Sax--Honeycutt had a chance for his and the Dodgers' first win. But then relievers Tom Niedenfuer and Matt Young went to work.
Niedenfuer faced three Astro batters, giving up two singles and a walk. In came Young, who struck out Davey Lopes, but then gave up a soft single to pinch-hitter Jim Pankovits and a broken-bat single to Doran.
Doran's hit to left then turned into a disaster for the Dodger defense. Phil Garner, trying to score from second, was hit in the back by the throw, which went to the screen. The throw back to home plate sailed over catcher Mike Scioscia's head, enabling Pankovits to score. A bloop double to right field by Billy Hatcher scored Doran, giving the Astros a 5-3 lead and probably making the Dodgers wonder what else could go wrong. They found out when Jose Cruz, the next batter, hit a two-run homer off Young to complete the seven-run onslaught.
Brian Holton, the third pitcher of the inning, managed to get the Dodgers to the top of the eighth inning without any more runs scoring.
Said Scioscia: "They had a couple of hits that if you strung them together they wouldn't reach the right fielder. But those count, too. The results aren't what they should be, but . . . "
Said Young, who threw two wild pitches that let in Astro runs in Tuesday's loss: "I made some good pitches today. One guy gets a broken-bat hit. I jam Hatcher with an inside slider, and he bloops it down the right-field line for a double. The only mistake I made was to Cruz.
"Maybe I got to carry a lucky rabbit's foot with me next time. They got some lucky hits."
After what happened in the series, the Dodgers might consider themselves lucky just to leave Houston.
Dodger players said they tried not to let the news of Campanis' firing affect their play. But several said afterward that it was an unavoidable distraction.
Said infielder Dave Anderson, the Dodgers' player representative: "I'm just waiting for us to go home, get Pete (Guerrero) in the lineup and get the distractions from the Campanis thing out of the way. That distraction hurt us the last two days. In the next few days, we'll discuss it and work it out."
"Today was a tough day," Scioscia said. "The (players in the) dugout at the beginning were kind of down. It's a traumatic thing to have happen. Now, let's get back to playing baseball."
Dodger Notes Manager Tom Lasorda on any possible effect the firing of Al Campanis had on Wednesday's game: "I don't think it had anything to do with some of those hits (the Astros) got. I don't think those hits, when they were up in the air, thought about Al Campanis." . . . Lasorda on Fred Claire, the club's administrative vice president who is taking over Campanis' duties: "I and my coaching staff will do everything we can to help Fred Claire. He is an outstanding executive, and I think he will do a good job." . . . Nolan Ryan, who lasted seven innings and struck out 10 Dodgers, got the victory. It was the 163rd time in Ryan's career that he has struck out at least 10 in a game.