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Dodgers Win and Stay Out of Cellar : They Rally for Six Runs in the Sixth to Defeat Braves, 7-4

September 19, 1987|THOMAS BONK | Times Staff Writer

History has taught us that the last place you'd expect to find the Dodgers is, well, in last place. The Dodgers haven't finished last since 1905, and they haven't sunk that low yet either, although they came pretty close Friday night.

It took a six-run sixth inning, helped along by John Shelby's three-run home run, to keep the Dodgers from falling into a tie with San Diego for last place in the National League West.

Instead, the Dodgers moved up. They climbed into a tie with Atlanta for fourth place with a 7-4 victory over the Braves before 24,513 at Dodger Stadium.

Right now, it's a three-team race between the Dodgers, Braves and Padres to see which one finishes last. The Dodgers are a half-game ahead of Atlanta, which is a half-game ahead of San Diego.

Think Shelby was thinking about finishing last?

"I haven't even given last place a thought," he said. "It's the last thing on my mind."

So, in any event, the last 16 days of the season are going to be pretty exciting. Is there a favorite? Maybe. If the Dodgers aren't used to last place, Atlanta Manager Chuck Tanner is.

If the Braves wind up in the cellar, it will be the fourth consecutive year a team managed by Tanner, who also had two straight seasons in the basement in Pittsburgh, has finished last. That hasn't happened since Connie Mack did it in 1941-42-43-44.

Orel Hershiser (16-13) overcame a shaky start and pitched his ninth complete game of the season. Hershiser allowed 10 hits, but 6 came in the first two innings when the Braves went ahead, 4-1.

Hershiser said that not finishing last is a matter of pride for the Dodgers.

"Last place, we don't want that tag all winter," he said. "Then you have to answer the question 'Why did you finish last?' It's a lot easier answering 'Why did you finish fourth?' "

For awhile, it appeared that Hershiser might not finish at all. His earned-run average took a beating in the first two innings. Hershiser, who fell behind San Francisco's Rick Reuschel for the league's ERA lead, was down three runs before he got to the third.

Dale Murphy, who earns runs the old-fashioned way, blasted a 3-and-2 pitch, a curveball down and away, into the left-center field pavilion to put Hershiser in a two-run hole in the first.

Murphy's 41st home run, which came two outs after leadoff batter Albert Hall doubled on the first pitch of the game, continued his legacy as a Dodger killer. It was Murphy's seventh home run against the Dodgers this season and the 31st he has hit off Dodger pitchers in his career.

The Dodgers quickly got a run back in the first, even though it was unearned. Steve Sax singled, moved to third on Ozzie Virgil's passed ball and scored when Pedro Guerrero singled sharply to right.

But Hershiser found himself right back in trouble again in the Braves' two-run second, one of them unearned on Hershiser's throwing error. After Ken Oberkfell's leadoff single and Jeff Blauser's bad-hop single that bounced over Glenn Hoffman's shoulder, Pete Smith sacrificed the runners to second and third.

Hall singled to right to score Oberkfell and when Hershiser threw the ball past Pedro Guerrero trying to catch Hall at first, Blauser scored for a 4-1 Atlanta lead.

Hershiser got out of the fifth when Phil Garner began a double play on Gerald Perry's bouncer to third with two on and one out.

The Dodgers were having all kinds of trouble with Smith (1-2), who was making only his third major league start. Then, in the sixth, Sax walked and Chris Gwinn blooped a single over Ron Gant's head into short right field.

On the first pitch to Guerrero, Smith threw the ball past Virgil, and Sax scored from second.

On the next pitch, Guerrero singled to score Gwinn.

On the next pitch, Mike Marshall singled to left.

The next pitch was made by somebody besides Smith. Tanner brought in left-hander Paul Assenmacher to pitch to Shelby, who took two pitches looking to bunt.

Tom Lasorda changed his mind and decided that instead of bunting, Shelby should hit a home run, which he did.

"I wasn't real excited about bunting, especially right-handed," said Shelby, who was relieved that Lasorda allowed him to swing. "I guess it worked out better that I hit it over the fence."

Once the ball landed in the Dodger bullpen, Shelby's 19th home run of the season, the Dodgers were ahead, 6-4.

When Assenmacher walked Mike Scioscia, Tanner brought in Rick Mahler. Hoffman's bunt moved Scioscia to second, and he was able to score when pinch-hitter Ken Landreaux singled to center for a 7-4 Dodger lead.

That was enough for Hershiser, whose earned-run average moved up only slightly, from 2.71 to 2.72. That's all it took for the Dodgers, who also moved up ever so slightly.

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