Complete games have a different meaning to Rick Honeycutt than to other Dodger pitchers, mainly because he rarely experiences one.
To Honeycutt, "complete" may mean flirting with a no-hitter for a few innings, logging a respectable number of strikeouts and then staying out of trouble before listening to the conclusion in the clubhouse with his left arm submerged in ice.
But on Tuesday night, Honeycutt changed the script by pitching nine innings en route to an easy, 7-0 win over the Chicago Cubs before 41,216 at Dodger Stadium.
The last time Honeycutt (2-1) finished what he started was on Sept. 10, 1985, when he beat the Atlanta Braves, 10-1.
You would have to go back to April 17, 1984 for Honeycutt's last nine-inning shutout. He beat the Houston Astros, 1-0, that night.
Befitting such a special occasion, the Dodger training staff had two buckets of ice waiting for Honeycutt, whose arrival in the clubhouse came later than usual. One was for Honeycutt's left arm, the other chilled a bottle of champagne supplied by Manager Tom Lasorda.
Usually, all Lasorda ever gives Honeycutt is the hook after he inevitably has run into trouble in the middle or late innings.
All that changed Tuesday. Relief was a feeling, not a substitute pitcher for Honeycutt on this night.
"This was enjoyable," Honeycutt said. "It was the kind of game that gets the monkey off your back. That's always been the question with me. Now, you guys will have to come up with a new question."
This was the second straight game in which Honeycutt, who pitched a four-hitter and struck out six, had a chance for a complete game. Last Thursday against Pittsburgh, Honeycutt had one out in the ninth before he tired and was then retired before closing out the game.
The fact that Honeycutt has put together two nearly complete games proves Lasorda's contention that Honeycutt is a changed pitcher.
Honeycutt's chronic left-shoulder soreness apparently is gone, but he has added an effective curveball taught to him by Sandy Koufax is spring training. Combine that with the improvement in Honeycutt's sinker and slider, and Honeycutt may indeed be a complete pitcher.
This business of complete games really hasn't been Honeycutt's major concern. But he admitted that he has thought about it.
"When you go out there, any pitcher's first thing in mind is to win but also pitch a shutout," Honeycutt said. "That's your personal goal. If you lose that, the next thing is a complete game. If you lose that, you keep going for the win.
"In the last couple of years, I wasn't able to get to that point where I could go beyond six or seven innings. My shoulder would start bothering me and that would be it. But now that my shoulder isn't bothering me, I can do it."
A modicum of offense, of course, is needed for any pitcher to win with a shutout, and the Dodgers provided more than enough.
Several unlikely sources knocked around Cub pitchers for 7 runs and 12 hits, Ken Landreaux again leading the attack with three hits and his second home run in as many games. While most of the Dodgers' big bats took the night off, Mariano Duncan, Steve Sax and Mike Ramsey all had two hits against starter Ed Lynch and his successors.
So, the only suspense left in the late innings was whether Honeycutt would make it through.
Things became a little shaky in the eighth, when Honeycutt gave up a bunt single to Bob Dernier. Ryne Sandberg then lifted a fly down the left-field line that appeared to be headed several rows into the seats for a home run.
But Reggie Williams, who had entered the game that inning as a defensive replacement for Pedro Guerrero, leaned over the railing and snagged the ball for the second out.
Said Williams: "That just comes from knowing the ballpark . . . knowing how many steps you have before you reach the fence."
Had Williams not caught the ball, Lasorda and pitching Coach Ron Perranoski apparently would have replaced Honeycutt.
"Perry (Perranoski) told me (after the inning), 'Thanks, you saved me a quick phone call to the bullpen,' " Williams said.
Chico Walker, replacing Cub slugger Andre Dawson in the seventh after Dawson fouled a ball off his right knee, then lifted a more conventional fly to center for the third out.
It was the first time this season the oft-injured Dawson has not completed a game. The Cubs said afterward that Dawson suffered a bruise on the inside of his right knee. He is expected to play tonight.
Knowing Honeycutt's history, Lasorda couldn't be blamed for having relievers Ken Howell and Matt Young warming up throughout the bottom of the eighth and into the ninth.
But Honeycutt forced Jody Davis to foul to first baseman Franklin Stubbs, Leon Durham to line to Williams in left and Keith Moreland to line to Ramsey in center.
"I told Ronny (Perranoski) that if (Honeycutt) goes nine, we're going to give him a bottle of champagne," Lasorda said. "I keep it here for special occasions."
Aside from Honeycutt, there were other reasons Tuesday's win was special.