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Dodgers Clear Air, Clout Expos

May 28, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

The Dodgers, who have been struggling mostly in silence, held a team meeting Wednesday evening to discuss their problems. The lone surprise was that it lasted only 15 minutes.

Their subsequent 6-4 win over the Montreal Expos before 34,846 at Dodger Stadium could be attributed to the meeting, although, compared to some of Manager Tom Lasorda's past gatherings, this one was rather tame.

"We know one thing," said Lasorda, whose team is in fifth place at 22-24 but only four games behind the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants. "We're a better team than we've been playing, and we're going to start playing that way."

They set out on that course Wednesday by breaking a two-game losing streak, combining a complete game by Fernando Valenzuela (5-2) with an overdue offensive awakening.

If it was the meeting that inspired shortstop Dave Anderson, starting in place of slumping Mariano Duncan, to go 2 for 4 with an RBI, or Franklin Stubbs to hit his first home run in nearly a month, then perhaps Lasorda should make it a nightly ritual.

This wasn't the first closed-door meeting of the season for the Dodgers, who had lost of 9 of their previous 11, but it apparently was necessary.

"We were playing, you know, apart," Pedro Guerrero said. "It seems like we haven't been playing together for a long time. The meeting helped because (Lasorda) talked to us and told us what he expects, and we told him the way we felt.

"If that's what it takes, sure, let's have one every night."

Lasorda, who called the meeting therapeutic, also had some news to break. He has decided, at least for the time being, to drop Alejandro Pena from the starting rotation and go with four pitchers. Also, Mike Marshall's finger and back are responding well and he is very close to coming off the disabled list.

With that last bit of good news, the Dodgers went out and hit as if Marshall's productive bat already was back in the lineup. The Dodgers had 11 hits off Expo starter Bryn Smith (2-1) and his successors, giving Valenzuela the runs he needed to hold off Montreal, which had racked Dodger pitching for 11 runs in the previous two games.

Before giving up two runs in the both the seventh and eighth innings, Valenzuela had shut out the Expos and given Dodger hitters a chance to score runs without the pressure of coming from behind.

The most welcome sight to Lasorda was a resumption of Stubbs' power, which has been nonexistent after he had hit seven home runs in April.

In the third inning, with the Dodgers holding a 2-0 lead, Stubbs hit Smith's first pitch over the right-field fence for his first home run since April 30. It was also his first at home, the previous seven having come on the road.

Stubbs added a double in the fifth inning, eventually scoring on a Montreal error.

"I didn't know it was going to take me a month and a half or two months to get (his first Dodger Stadium home run)," Stubbs said. "I don't know what it was. We needed (a well-rounded offense) because the only guy who had been producing was Pete (Guerrero). We've got to have more than that to win."

Anderson, meanwhile, has filled in capably for the frustrated Duncan, who has been given two games off to try to find his missing hitting stroke.

On Wednesday, Anderson had a double to left and scored in the second inning and an RBI single in the eighth that gave Valenzuela a two-run cushion going into the ninth.

Anderson has been a reliable utility man for the Dodgers since 1985, but he says he naturally wants to win the starting shortstop job back from Duncan, who is hitting just .222.

"I know I can go out there and play," Anderson said. "Everybody would like to play every day. That's why you're in this game.

"This might be like back to the future. (In 1985), when I got hurt, Duncan came in and won the job by playing well. Maybe . . . "

Lasorda has said that he is giving Duncan a few games off so he can concentrate on hitting.

"I don't know," Lasorda replied when asked if Anderson might get another start at shortstop on Friday night. "We'll see what happens."

The Dodgers usually know what to expect from Valenzuela. He did not disappoint on Wednesday, though he muddled through the late innings. It was Valenzuela's first win since he beat the St. Louis Cardinals on May 9 at Dodger Stadium. That also was his last complete game.

Valenzuela gave up a run-scoring double to Andres Galarraga and then a run-scoring single to Hubie Brooks in the seventh.

In the eighth, he had two outs and a runner on first when center fielder John Shelby dived for Tim Raines' looping fly and just missed, Dave Engle scoring to cut the Dodger lead to 5-3. Tim Wallach then drove in Raines with a single to left, but the rally was killed when Guerrero threw out Wallach trying to stretch the hit into a double.

Though his offense wasn't needed Wednesday, Guerrero extended his hitting streak to eight games with a single.

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