SAN DIEGO — And so, quickly, mercifully, going gently into that long winter, the 1987 baseball seasons ended for the Dodgers and San Diego Padres Sunday.
The Dodgers won, 5-3, and it took less than 2 1/2 hours.
The game-winning RBI came on the game's fourth pitch when Steve Sax homered. Then each team was able to play almost their entire farm systems, and many of the 35,575 fans at San Diego Jack Murphy saw hardly any of it, busy as they were in mental preparation for the ensuing Beach Boys concert.
The starting and winning pitcher was Shawn Hillegas, who didn't throw his first big-league pitch until Aug. 9.
The starting and losing pitcher was Ed Whitson, who wasn't even told he was starting until Saturday night. Guys named Orlando Mercado (Dodgers) and Randy Ready (Padres) each collected three hits.
It was a game for which, afterward, there were no answers needed, only questions.
Like, is this Tommy Lasorda's last game as Dodgers manager? Afterward, he made this announcement:
"I'm going on a diet. I'm going to eat one more plate of linguine tonight and that's it."
But what about the reports about you becoming the Dodgers general manager or somebody else's manager? Aren't you anxious?
"No, I've got a contract for 1988, what do I have to be anxious about," said Lasorda, who then proceeded to give what could be construed as a very anxious-sounding farewell address.
"Call Peter (O'Malley) up to clarify my situation, he's the one who does all the calling," Lasorda said. "I've been here 38 years, and I love them (the Dodgers). It's a great organization. I've had 11 years at the helm and I'd like to thank Peter and his father for giving me the opportunity. I just hope I can be here a lot more years."
Said Dodger outfielder Mike Marshall: "I don't think Tommy knows. I think he's wondering as much as we are."
Over in the Padres' locker room, the question was not whether their manager, Larry Bowa, was returning. The question is, after hearing his season-ending talk prior to the game, are any of his players coming back?
"Oh, it wasn't anything, I just reiterated what I am going to expect from them next spring," Bowa said. "I reminded them they had to make their assigned weights, or they wouldn't be allowed to work out with the team. I reminded them about the two-mile run, every morning next spring until the games start. And we'll be doing a lot of foul-line-to-foul-line running every afternoon."
Other than all that, Sunday's game was your basic season-ender, filled with milestones and millstones.
The Dodgers hadn't lost 90 games in a season since 1944, and avoided doing it again by the skin of Sunday's win.
The bad news is, they finished with exactly the same record (73-89) as last season, which is like finishing a six-month drive only to discover, you've gone absolutely nowhere.
The Padres, meanwhile, avoided becoming the worst team in baseball since the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (20-134). After winning just 12 of their first 54 games, they rebounded to go 53-55 the rest of the way. The bad news is, they still lost 10 of their last 11 games and finished 65-97, 11 games worse than 1985 (74-88) and their worst full-season record since 1974.
Said Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn: "It sounds weird, but maybe it is good to finish in last place. It will teach the young guys what it takes to win it."
Pedro Guerrero's first-inning double pushed his hitting streak to 17 games, which will give him a little something to think about for the next six months.
At least two Padres finished happily. In his first at-bat, Benito Santiago doubled to left. He could have used that a few hours earlier on Saturday night, when, with only three at-bats, he lost his 34-game hitting streak. In his next at-bat Sunday, he singled to left, pushing his average to .300 and bringing in a pinch-runner and causing another standing ovation. Among the 13 players who have hit in 34 games or more in major league history, Santiago's average is still the lowest. But like he said, it is .300.
"How do you like that, I can't get a hit on Saturday but when I need to go 2 for 2 the next day, I do?" asked Santiago.
Then there was Gwynn, who left the game to a standing ovation in the second inning after a drawing a first-inning walk that protected his major-league leading .370 average. It's the highest National League average in 39 years, since Stan Musial hit .376 for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948. He is only the 19th player in NL history, and 39th overall, to hit .370 or higher.
Lasorda was asked by ABC's "Good Morning America" to be their playoffs and World Series correspondent. He turned them down. He said it was because of the uncertainty of his situation. He said, "We've got a lot of work to do, lot of decisions to make." . . . Pitcher Orel Hershiser will undergo arthroscopic surgery on his right knee Tuesday.