Before Tuesday night, Manager Tom Lasorda had insisted that he has not thought about knocking Alejandro Pena out of the Dodgers' starting pitching rotation, even though opponents have regularly knocked Pena around.
If that was a show of faith, then Pena gave his manager no reason to believe things will improve with his performance Tuesday night in the Dodgers' 8-3 loss to the Montreal Expos before 25,336 at Dodger Stadium.
This time, Pena was knocked around and sent reeling back to the Dodger clubhouse after lasting only 2 innings. It was Pena's shortest starting appearance of the season, as the Expos had scored four runs on six hits and had the bases loaded when he departed.
Lasorda is definitely thinking about pulling Pena from the rotation now, after his record fell to 0-5 and earned-run average rose to 4.94.
"I don't know," Lasorda said when asked whether Pena will remain a starter. "I'll sit down and talk with the pitching coach (Ron Perranoski) and see what we'll do.
"You expect a guy of his caliber to pitch a good ballgame. He did not pitch the way he's capable, no question about it. . . .Whatever we do, it'll be for the best interest of the club--if we do anything."
A parade of Dodger relievers did not fare much better, and the Dodger offense managed only three runs off Expo starter Bob Sebra.
While the Expos hit every pitcher the Dodgers used, the Dodgers could not knock out Sebra, who had not pitched more than seven innings in any start this season. It was Sebra's first complete game in eight starts, as he allowed seven hits and struck out seven.
Sebra gave up two runs in the fourth on Tracy Woodson's double and then gave up a solo home run to John Shelby in the fifth.
The Dodgers, still in fifth place in the National League West at 21-24, lost their second straight and ninth in the last 11 games thanks to poor pitching and lack of sustained offense. The first three hitters in Montreal's order combined for eight hits for the second straight game.
This was not the worst showing of the season for Pena, still trying to recover from serious shoulder surgery in 1985. The Expos' only extra-base hit off Pena was Tim Raines' double down the right-field line.
But Montreal hit the ball hard and in places not occupied by Dodger fielders.
It was an improvement of sorts over Pena's last start, when he gave up two home runs in 5 innings against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Pena did not think he was hit as hard as it appeared.
"What I have to do is keep calm and keep trying to throw the ball good," Pena said. "I feel I am throwing good. Everything I throw, it goes in the hole, or a broken bat (hit) or I jam (a hitter) for a single."
Said Perranoski: "They really didn't hit him that hard. Those hits put him in jams that he couldn't get out of. . . .I'm sure in the next couple days (Lasorda) and I will talk about the situation."
Perhaps one reason Lasorda seems hesitant to make a change is that the other candidates to supplant Pena as the fifth starter have not looked too impressive, either.
All were on display Tuesday.
Tim Leary, who won 12 games as a starter last season for Milwaukee, relieved Pena and pitched out of his inherited jam in the third. But Leary gave up two runs--coming on Herm Winningham's home run--three hits and two wild pitches in 2 innings.
Next in line was Brad Havens, acquired along with John Shelby from the Baltimore Orioles last week in the Tom Niedenfuer trade. Havens pitched a scoreless sixth inning but walked in a run in the seventh and was pulled for a pinch-hitter.
Brian Holton, who had a spot start in April when Rick Honeycutt was injured, followed Havens and struggled. Entering in the eighth, Holton gave up singles to Casey Candaele and Mitch Webster, both of whom had three hits Tuesday night. Raines ground out to second scored Candaele for Montreal's eighth run.
If none of the middle and long relievers appeals to Lasorda, he could always turn to Matt Young, the club's best short reliever. Young was a starter for his first three seasons with the Seattle Mariners.
But when asked about using Young as a starter last week, after the acquisition of Shelby and Havens, Lasorda said he had no plans to remove Young from the bullpen.
Of course, Pena has at times pitched well despite his record. He won the starting job over Leary and Jerry Reuss with a hot spring, in which he had a 0.41 earned-run average.
Pena's departure was his earliest this season. Before Tuesday, the quickest hook he had received was on May 2, when he gave up two earned runs on six hits in four innings against St. Louis. Leary replaced him in that game, too, and pitched two shutout innings.
Montreal struck early against Pena, then let up in the second inning before leveling the knock-out punch in the third.
Expo first baseman Andres Galarraga blooped a single to center with two out, scoring Webster from second and moving Tim Wallach to third.