ATLANTA — There could not have been a more appropriate ending to the Dodgers' dreadful 10-9 loss to the Braves here Saturday afternoon. Or could there?
With the score tied, 9-9, and the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning, Dodger pitcher Alejandro Pena hit Brave pinch-hitter Gary Roenicke on his right hand with a tailing fastball, forcing in the apparent winning run.
Pena, assuming the game was over, shed his glove and hat and went into the visitors' dugout. The Braves evacuated their dugout, home-plate umpire Charlie Williams took off his mask and began walking off the field, and the grounds crew came out.
But wait, the game wasn't over.
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda bolted from the dugout, yelling at umpire Williams that Roenicke had swung at the pitch, and asked Williams to appeal to first-base umpire John Kibler. Williams eventually motioned to Kibler, who ruled that Roenicke had swung, which made it a strike, even if the pitch did hit him.
After Brave Manager Chuck Tanner argued with Kibler, to no avail, Roenicke, rubbing his sore hand, went back to the plate, and everyone else went back to their positions. One pitch later, Roenicke was called out on strikes. He swore and motioned at Kibler, who ejected him. When he reached the dugout, Roenicke threw his bat at the umpire.
"I wanted to throw the whole . . . dugout at him," an angry Roenicke said later.
But the Dodgers eventually found a way to lose, even after being given a reprieve. The Braves won it in the 10th when Ken Griffey's two-out double off Pena brought home Dion James with the winning run. The Dodgers are 59-82 and mathematically assured of their third losing season in the last four years.
The Dodgers, who trailed, 4-1, after the first inning, pulled ahead, 7-4, after the fourth and led, 9-4, going into the bottom of the seventh. But that's when the Braves scored five runs to tie the score and set up the unusual ending.
While umpire Williams was the center of controversy in the ninth, he annoyed the Dodgers all game long. Lasorda, pitching coach Ron Perranoski and Dodger starter Bob Welch all thought that Williams had a grossly inconsistent strike zone.
In the Braves' seventh, Welch and catcher Alex Trevino thought they had Griffey struck out on a fastball on the outside corner. But Williams called it a ball, and Griffey then moved two runners into scoring position with a ground-out.
One batter later, after Welch gave up an infield single to Ted Simmons to score the Braves' second run of the inning, Perranoski headed for the mound to remove his pitcher. Williams, however, beat him to it: He ejected Welch for protesting some of his calls.
Tim Crews replaced Welch and gave up a three-run home run to pinch-hitter Graig Nettles to tie the score, 9-9. Crews, too, thought Williams missed two pitches. Nettles hit a 3-and-1 pitch; Crews said the count could have been 1 and 2.
All that, however, was merely a prelude to the ninth.
Williams would not speak to reporters afterward. Kibler, however, explained his reversal of Williams' call.
"Sure he swung, but I've got to wait for (Williams) to ask me," Kibler said. "It just looks bad because (Williams) waited until Lasorda came out before asking me. That looks bad.
"If you swing the bat, even if you're hit, it still is a (strike). I have no doubt it hit (Roenicke), but he swung."
Said Roenicke, sporting a welt on his right hand resulting from Pena's pitch: "I'd like to invite (Kibler) in here to see the replay if he thinks I swung. This is ridiculous. It never ceases to amaze me. The home-plate umpire is right there and he should be able to make the call.
"I guess the longer you play this game, the more things you see. I still can't believe Kibler made that call."
In the Dodger clubhouse, the amazement resulted from Williams' work behind the plate. Said Lasorda: "You saw it . . . I'm not going to say anything about Williams."
However, Lasorda did praise Kibler.
"Kibler showed me a lot of courage," Lasorda said. "He made sure everything was right. A lot of (umpires) might have taken the easy way out and said the ball hit him. But he showed me something."
On the field, the Dodgers showed why they are threatening to become the first Dodger team since 1905 to finish in last place.
Welch was in trouble early, settled down but eventually faltered.
The Dodgers scored seven of their nine runs off Zane Smith, the Braves' best pitcher. Pedro Guerrero went 2 for 3, including a three-run home run in the fourth, and rookie Mike Devereaux had two run-scoring doubles.
But Brave hitters eventually got to Welch and three relievers for an impressive and strange comeback.