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Dodgers, Honeycutt Lose Again

August 23, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA — Rick Honeycutt was the starting pitcher for the Dodgers Saturday, so naturally his teammates took the afternoon off. If Honeycutt doesn't take this slight personally, maybe he should. In Honeycutt's first start in three weeks, after a banishment to the bullpen, the Dodgers were shut out by the Philadelphia Phillies, 2-0, in a game that typified Honeycutt's record-breaking season.

The loss was Honeycutt's 11th straight, perpetuating his Los Angeles Dodgers record for consecutive losses. He is only three defeats from the Brooklyn/L.A. Dodgers record of 14 straight, set by Jim Pastorius in 1904.

Saturday's shutout was the fourth time the Dodgers have been blanked in Honeycutt's 12 losses. In those games, the Dodgers (54-69) have totaled just 16 runs.

Honeycutt pitched six scoreless innings in this outing, occasionally working out of jams, before pitching into a bases-loaded situation in the seventh. Reliever Matt Young then gave up a ground ball to Luis Aguayo, scoring the only run the Phillies needed.

The Phillies, who added a second run in the eighth off Young, received seven shutout innings from Mike Maddux, making his first start of the season. All told, the Dodgers managed just six hits and advanced runners as far as second base only twice.

So, although he gave up only one run and six hits into the seventh inning, Honeycutt endured another loss.

It was a performance that might return Honeycutt to the rotation or increase his value on the trading market. The Toronto Blue Jays, among other teams, are looking to the Dodgers for pitching help in their pennant drive, and Honeycutt's name has been mentioned. Honeycutt calmly met the press Saturday with the same bemused smile he has had after other games like this.

Is there any consolation in pitching well, Rick?

"Sure," he said.

Is consolation worth anything?

"No."

Don't your teammates like you?

"Maybe that's it," he said, smiling. "Nah, the guys are busting their tails. It's just the way it's been."

Honeycutt, however, did say he feels encouraged by his performance. He prefers to be a starter and hopes he has earned another start.

"I'll go out and pitch and help the team any time they want," Honeycutt said. "If they want to give me the ball as a starter, I'll sure take it. I feel better on the mound, like I got some kind of idea what to do."

Poor pitching in recent starts cost Honeycutt his spot at the end of July. But before that, it was lack of offensive and defensive support that cost Honeycutt several wins.

Even a better example than Saturday's game was Honeycutt's last start in Veterans Stadium on May 18.

In that game, Honeycutt allowed five unearned runs in one inning and lost, despite lowering his earned-run average to 1.31, which was the best in the National League at the time.

Honeycutt's ERA stood at 4.61 after Saturday's defeat, which shows that he, too, hasn't been without blame for a few of his 12 losses.

But after his unspectacular exile to the bullpen, Honeycutt returned to the rotation with a renewed sinker and curveball and even a little confidence.

Said Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia: "When you're a starter, you're kind of like an artist who starts with a clean drawing board. You can create your own work. But if you relieve, you're finishing somebody else's work. There's no room for error as a reliever. So, it puts it in perspective when you go back to being a starter and don't always face men on base."

Said Honeycutt: "If anything, pitching out of the bullpen gave me a chance to clear my head out. I hadn't been in a good frame of mind."

Rebuilding Honeycutt's confidence definitely was on Manager Tom Lasorda's mind. Lasorda said he would have pulled Honeycutt after the sixth inning, had his spot in the batting order come up in the top of the seventh.

"I wanted him to leave with six scoreless innings," Lasorda said. "That was important. But we went down one-two-three in the inning, so (his spot) didn't come up."

The Dodger offense couldn't be counted on for anything Saturday. But Honeycutt isn't alone. Bob Welch has given up only one run in his last 15 innings, yet Dodger hitters have been shut out both times.

"What are you going to do?" Lasorda asked.

The Dodgers' best scoring chance did not come in the first or ninth innings, when they advanced a runner to second, but in the fifth inning.

With one out Honeycutt singled--"At least the pitchers are hitting," he said--but Steve Sax struck out for the second out.

Danny Heep then launched a high drive to center field that Phillie center fielder Milt Thompson caught just before slamming into the wall. Thompson staggered into the dugout with the inning-ending catch, and the Dodgers staggered through another futile offensive afternoon. "If that ball drops, it's a run," Lasorda said. "It's a different game then."

Tell that to Honeycutt.

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