Persistence may be the most important strength Franklin Stubbs takes to the plate. As long as Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda keeps sending him up, no matter what has come before, Stubbs will take his cuts and live with the results.
Monday night, in the bottom of the 12th inning of the latest unpredictable and contentious episode of the Dodger-Giant rivalry, Stubbs slouched to the plate having endured an 0-for-5 night in his difficult assignment of hitting behind Pedro Guerrero.
All it took, though, was one swing for Stubbs to obliterate an evening's worth of frustration. Stubbs smashed a Scott Garrelts' slider into the right-field seats to lift the Dodgers' to a 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 33,741 and a national television audience.
Stubbs' home run was the final crashing note on a typically wacky Dodger-Giant symphony that began in twilight and ended well after the onset of darkness 4 hours 6 minutes later.
In all, the lead changed four times, as Lasorda and Giant Manager Roger Craig each used five pitchers and each saw grievous defensive lapses prolong things. Eventually, Tim Leary (2-6) earned the win after pitching an uneventful 12th. Garrelts (9-7) got the loss.
It seemed that every time the Dodgers pulled ahead, either by way of an unearned run or Mickey Hatcher's eighth-inning home run, the Giants countered.
Then, Stubbs intervened. His 14th home run of the season enabled the Dodgers to break the Giants' four-game win streak and extend their own win streak to three games.
The Dodgers, who opened a 19-game stretch against National League West rivals Monday, moved into fourth place in the West, a half-game ahead of the Atlanta Braves. They are eight games behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds, who were idle.
Stubbs, filling in at the clean-up spot for an ailing Mike Marshall, had mostly been idle at the plate until the 12th.
The Giants' plan was to pitch around Guerrero, which many teams have done this season. And when the Giants learned that Marshall was out of the lineup with what was diagnosed as a viral syndrome (severe sore throat), Craig took his chances on Stubbs.
All night, Stubbs had been a character study in futility.
Guerrero walked in the first inning, and Stubbs popped up. Guerrero walked in the third, and Stubbs flied out. Guerrero struck out in the fifth, and Stubbs followed suit. Guerrero was intentionally walked with a runner on third and two out in the seventh, and Stubbs struck out. Guerrero was walked again in the ninth with a runner on second, and Stubbs struck out once more. Finally, after Guerrero struck out to end the 11th, Stubbs had a chance to do some damage to somebody other than himself without Guerrero lurking at first base.
"I was trying too hard, pressing, all day," Stubbs said. "That last time up, I figured, 'Well, I'm not going to worry about Pete; I'm just going to make contact.' "
Stubbs made contact, all right, launching Garrelts' slider to deep right field. Stubbs said he knew the ball was heading toward the seats as soon as he made contact, but he delayed his celebration until he knew the home run was assured.
Homering off Garrelts is nothing new to Stubbs. On April 21, at Candlestick Park, Stubbs hit a ninth-inning home run off Garrelts in the Dodgers' wild and controversial 11-8 win over the Giants. That time, it was Marshall who hit the game-winning home run, which touched off a brawl when Marshall strongly objected to the Giants' strategy of walking Guerrero to pitch to him.
A finger-pointing episode did not accompany Stubbs' shot, though. Only a fist raised in the air, punching away a night of frustration.
"Now I know what Marshall's been going through," Stubbs said. "I've got to come through in that situation. I didn't know how tough it was to hit behind Pedro. Teams don't want to pitch to him.
"The thing is, I've got to relax. But I was putting pressure on myself. I was trying to hit the long ball, and striking out. But I think I proved that if you keep going up there, good things are going to happen. It had been a long night for me. I may have been 0 for 5, but your last at bats is what really counts."
It was all that mattered to Lasorda and the Dodgers.
Stubbs said he felt badly that he let down Guerrero and Lasorda before earning extra-inning redemption.
"You could tell Pete was mad, well, maybe just frustrated," Stubbs said. "They kept walking him and I kept striking out. I think Pete's last time up (when he struck out to end the 11th), he was going for the home run to try to take the pressure off me.
"I was happy in the eighth inning when Hatcher hit that home run (giving the Dodgers a 4-3 lead) because I figured the pressure was off me. But I had a happy ending, so . . . "
Stubbs made a special point of seeking out Lasorda in his office afterward and thanking him for not taking him out of the lineup.
Stubbs to Lasorda: "Thank you for not giving up."