Rick Sutcliffe and Lee Smith look as though they should be playing in a different sport--the National Basketball Assn. playoffs, for example.
Along with newcomer Andre Dawson, the 6-7 Sutcliffe and the 6-6 Smith are big reasons the Cubs once again loom as challengers in the National League East.
Sutcliffe, who was 5-14 and hurting last season, became the league's first six-game winner of 1987 as the Cubs, baseball's best road show, blanked the Dodgers, 5-0, Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
The former Dodger, who had a 7.23 earned-run average against his old teammates in infrequent appearances in the past, was superb for five innings. He staggered through the sixth, and with one out in the seventh, Smith took over.
Although he didn't get a save, largely because the only two hitters in the Cub lineup batting below .200, Keith Moreland and Shawon Dunston, had been too much for Alejandro Pena, Smith protected the lead almost without incident.
And Dawson, who has been a sensation since signing with the Cubs, hit his 12th home run in the ninth inning, but it only padded the lead for Chicago, which is 13-5 on the road. Dawson's home run gave the Cubs 18 home runs in their 18 road games.
But it was the two light hitters who had already sent Pena down to his third loss without a victory.
Moreland, trying to concentrate on learning the rudiments of third base, has been in a season-long slump. He came into the game batting only .181, about 100 points below normal.
He broke the deadlock in the battle between two of the slowest working pitchers in baseball when he hammered his third home run into the left-field seats on the first pitch of the second inning.
Then, in the fourth inning, he lashed a double with one out, and Dunston, who was batting only .178, followed with his first home run of the season. Last year, Dunston hit 17 home runs.
Left fielder Pedro Guerrero misplayed Ryne Sandberg's drive into a double in the fifth inning, and the Cubs scored again to take a 4-0 lead.
The Dodgers had one real chance to draw even. Unfortunately for them, Franklin Stubbs, in the midst of a deep slump, came up in the clutch.
When Stubbs batted in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, he had gone hitless in his last 14 at-bats and had only one hit in 21 at-bats. After getting ahead on the count, 3 and 1, he ended up taking a called third strike to end the Dodgers' only threat.
Sutcliffe (6-2) said he got Stubbs out with his new pitch, the forkball. Manager Tommy Lasorda said he got him out with the help of plate umpire Eric Gregg.
"I can't believe the calls on Stubbs," Lasorda said. "He called strikes on two pitches that were above the letters. That was our real chance to get back in the game."
Sutcliffe, who gave up only two hits, started the seventh by giving up his fourth walk. Then, after Mike Ramsey hit a sharp grounder to second for the first out, Manager Gene Michaels brought in Smith.
Sutcliffe is the only pitcher Smith replaces that he doesn't tower over. Throwing off a mound raised to 15 inches with a fastball that travels about 95 m.p.h, Smith has batters at a disadvantage.
Even in the lean years, Smith gets his 30 saves. But with Sutcliffe regaining form similar to 1984 when he was 16-1 and pitched the Cubs to the division title, he will get chances for even more.
In a one-sided game, he needed to pitch at least three full innings for the save. It doesn't matter to him. He just went out and stopped the Dodgers cold. In 2 innings he struck out two and gave up only a single to Steve Sax.
He already has 10 saves in his 11 opportunities this season.
The Cubs remained in hot pursuit of the St. Louis Cardinals in the East and, with the New York Mets having their troubles, are gaining more confidence daily.
On the other hand, the Dodgers head East trailing the Cincinnati Reds by three games in the West.
Mike Marshall will not accompany the Dodgers on their nine-game trip that begins Friday night at Montreal, because it is thought that he can accomplish more here. He will be able to come off the disabled list May 24. Marshall, recuperating from surgery on his left index finger, will work on strengthening his back while the finger heals. "They tell me with proper exercise I can recover 100% from the back problem," Marshall said. . . . Fernando Valenzuela will seek his fifth victory Friday night when he opposes the Expos' Jay Tibbs. The Dodgers play three at Montreal, getting their first glimpse of the dome, three at Philadelphia and three at New York. When the trip is over, the Dodgers will have played every team in the East, but they won't meet Cincinnati for the first time until June 5. . . . Andre Dawson, who left Tuesday night's game after fouling a ball off his knee, was back in the Cub lineup.