The notorious Dodger defense, capable of grievous misadventures anywhere and at any time, chose the wrong time and a different place to strike Saturday in a nationally televised game at Dodger Stadium.
As a result, another solid pitching effort by Orel Hershiser was transformed into a 3-0 Dodger loss to Kevin Gross and the Philadelphia Phillies, mainly because of two fielding plays that should have been made but weren't.
"We made mistakes, and we lost," Hershiser said, with an exaggerated shrug. "Nothing really to write home about."
Nothing new, that is.
The noteworthy change in the scenario was that both defensive misplays took place not in the infield, but in the expanse between left and center fields, where there seemingly is more space for things to go wrong.
In a curious twist that was not lost on the Dodgers, who had a two-game winning streak broken, three excellent plays in left field saved Gross' first shutout of the season.
What will more likely be remembered by the crowd of 30,216 were the Dodgers' defensive problems, which are going deeper--from the infield to the outfield.
In the fourth inning of a scoreless game, Philadelphia had runners on first and second with two out. Von Hayes lofted a fly ball deep to left-center that looked quite catchable.
Left fielder Pedro Guerrero ran down the ball and appeared to have it in his glove when center fielder John Shelby sideswiped him. Both the ball and Guerrero's glove went flying, enabling both Phillie runners to score and Hayes to end up on third with a triple.
A 2-0 lead apparently wasn't enough for Philadelphia, which tested the Dodger outfield again in the sixth. This time, the Phillies found Shelby perhaps a little shellshocked from his collision with Guerrero.
Juan Samuel hit a one-out line drive to left-center that Shelby fielded on one hop after breaking late for the ball. Apparently unaware that Samuel was thinking double, Shelby made a soft throw into second that was too late for Steve Sax to even attempt a tag.
The extra base resulted in an extra run when Mike Easler, the next batter, singled to left-center. This time, at least Shelby came up throwing, but Samuel easily scored.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda was asked if perhaps Shelby, touted by Dodger vice president Fred Claire as a defensive specialist, got his signals crossed with Guerrero because he still is unfamiliar with his outfield partners.
"I just saw as much as you," a disgusted Lasorda said. "Go ask them." Concerning his collision with Guerrero that resulted in the Phillies' first two runs, Shelby said he was focused only on catching the ball.
"Evidently, we both called for the ball at the same time," said Shelby, who added that he did not hear Guerrero calling for it. "Our arms hit. I didn't touch the ball, but somebody said it was in (Guerrero's) glove."
Guerrero, who aggravated his already-tender left wrist in the collision, talked as if Shelby just materialized at a fateful last moment.
"I didn't hear him; I didn't see him coming at me," Guerrero said. "It could have happened with any other guy. He hit me after I had the ball."
Because Hayes is a left-handed hitter, Shelby was playing him to pull the ball. Guerrero said he was surprised Shelby covered that much ground so quickly. In this case, though, Shelby's athletic ability was more of a hindrance than a help.
"He was playing the guy the other way," Guerrero said. "(Shelby's) a good player. He got there before I even thought about it. But in that situation, you've got to go after the ball, no matter what."
Shelby took responsibility for his non-attempt at throwing out Samuel at second. But he also gave an assist to the bright afternoon background at Dodger Stadium.
"When (Samuel's) ball was hit, I just went back and played it on one hop, because I found it hard to pick up the ball today," Shelby said. "I was told it was like that here. I just went back and got the ball.
"Maybe if I had come up throwing--and throwing it hard--I could have got him. But I had no idea he was running on the play."
That 3-0 Philadelphia lead proved insurmountable. Credit Gross' pitching but give assists to two defensive plays by Easler in the sixth inning and Greg Gross, Easler's defensive replacement, in the eighth.
The Dodgers' best chance to score came in the bottom of the sixth. Guerrero, who had two singles to extend his hitting streak to 10 games, hit a sinking line drive that Easler dove head-first to catch. Easler then robbed Mike Marshall of a home run by leaping for a catch with his back to the wall.
Kevin Gross made it harder on himself in the inning by walking Franklin Stubbs and giving up a single to Mickey Hatcher that moved Stubbs to third. But Gross slipped out of the inning unscathed when Mike Scioscia lined to right.
"Getting Scioscia out in the sixth was the whole key for Kevin," Phillie pitching coach Claude Osteen said.