This thrilling race to stay out of last place in the National League West is not unfolding at all as planned, simply because the obstinate Dodgers aren't cooperating.
Judging from the way they have dismissed the San Diego Padres in the last two games at Dodger Stadium, including their 3-1 victory before a crowd of 18,357 Saturday, next weekend's season-ending series in San Diego may have little importance.
As a result of the complete-game six-hitter by Bob Welch, whose name has circulated as one of the most likely Dodgers to be traded this winter, the fourth-place Dodgers hold a four-game lead over the Padres with eight to play.
The lone San Diego highlight was catcher Benito Santiago's fifth-inning single, extending his hitting streak to 28 games. Santiago set a major league record for longest hitting streak by a rookie, eclipsing the mark of Pittsburgh's James Williams in 1899.
No matter where the Dodgers finish in the standings, numerous personnel changes figure to be made in the off-season. A proven pitcher such as Welch (14-9), who lowered his earned-run average to 3.34, is a valued commodity on the trade market. The Dodgers might be willing to part with him because of their depth in starting pitching.
Welch, who allowed a run in the fifth when Garry Templeton doubled home Santiago, has heard the trade rumors. Although has been with the Dodgers longer than any of his teammates, with nine full seasons of service, Welch does not seemed fazed by it.
"You think about it, but you can't dwell on it," Welch said. "There's going to be a lot of names mentioned between now and spring training. My job is to just keep in shape and try to win. I have a contract to play baseball here. That's all I know. The rest is out of my control."
But the 30-year-old Welch, who has a 114-86 career record, said he would like to finish his career in Los Angeles.
"Sure, I'd like to play baseball here," he said. "It's a good organization. I've never played anywhere else. But who knows what'll happen?"
Dodger management may have a clue. Fred Claire, the club's vice president, has said there are no untouchables. But Manager Tom Lasorda, whose own status in the organization remains nebulous, hedged when asked if the Dodgers are willing to trade Welch.
"That's like asking me, 'How high is high,' or 'How far is far,' " Lasorda said. "If somebody came up to us and said, you can get this and this and this (for Welch), you'll make the trade to help the ball club. Now, I'm not saying we're going to make a trade.
"One thing we've got is three outstanding starting pitchers (Welch, Fernando Valenzuela and Orel Hershiser). That's the backbone of our ball club."
That also may be what is keeping the Dodgers from finishing in last place for the first time since 1905.
Dodger hitters did not get to Padre starter Eric Nolte (2-5) until the sixth inning. But their one rally produced all their runs and led to Nolte's departure.
Mike Sharperson, the recently acquired second baseman from Toronto, led off with a single and moved to second on Pedro Guerrero's single. Mike Marshall then tied it, 1-1, with a run-scoring single. Nolte walked John Shelby on a 3-and-2 pitch, loading the bases.
Mark Davis relieved and got one out before Glenn Hoffman singled home the game-winning runs.
A two-run lead was all the Dodgers needed due to the strong effort by Welch, who pitched his first complete game since July 12.
The Dodgers have won 7 of 9 games, and one motivation might be the fear of finishing last.
"I sure don't want to finish last," Welch said. "But last year, we finished a half-game in front (of the cellar), and I didn't feel much better."
Added Mike Scioscia: "It's important that we don't finish last, but it'll also be a smokescreen for the kind of year we've had. We've had a bad year and we can't forget that. You hate to look back and say, 'What if?' But this was an easy year to win our division. But . . . "
Padre catcher Benito Santiago on his record 28-game hitting streak: "I'm too excited right now to say anything. But I'll just have to get another one tomorrow. At first, I tried so hard, but after the first couple months of the season, I started relaxing and just concentrating on what I'm doing." . . . Dodger shortstop Glenn Hoffman had two hits and two runs batted in Saturday, raising his batting average to .250. Hoffman, who also has fielded competently, is another Dodger with an uncertain future. "They are sort of feeling me out," Hoffman said. "Hopefully, I can finish strong and come back next year. I'm sure they'll evaluate everyone at the end of the season, and I hope I get invited back." . . . Pedro Guerrero's sixth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 12 games, his season high. . . . The Dodgers' Fernando Valenzuela (13-14) opposes Mark Grant (7-8) today at 1 p.m.