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BASEBALL PLAYOFFS : Leonard's Mark Is Wind-Aided but It Counts for Giants

October 11, 1987|SAM McMANIS | Times Staff Writer

SAN FRANCISCO — He had vowed revenge the night before, but it wasn't at all certain what form it would take here Saturday night. With Jeffrey Leonard, a man of multiple personas and talents, that could have meant either mild physical violence or common assault with his bat.

The concussive force of Leonard's fifth-inning home run, which gave the San Francisco Giants the lead and an eventual 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the National League Championship Series, was redemption enough.

If not for Leonard, who set a playoff record Saturday for hitting home runs in four consecutive games, Mike Krukow's outstanding pitching effort probably would have been wasted, as would any real Giant chance for the National League pennant.

A loss would have put the Cardinals ahead, 3 games to 1, in the best-of-seven series, going into Game 5 today (1:35 p.m.) at Candlestick Park. Instead, the teams now each have two wins, and a sixth game Tuesday night in St. Louis is assured.

"I don't care how many games it's going to go," an unusually subdued Leonard said. "We are going to win it. I'm not satisfied yet. What would (satisfy me) is winning this one (today) and the one (Game 6) in St. Louis, then waving at them. See you later."

Leonard, combative and controversial, really doesn't need motivation for antagonism, but it helps. There certainly was enough of it swirling in the high winds at Candlestick Park on this night. In no particular order, Leonard was angry at being hit by a Bob Forsch pitch in Friday night's loss, miffed about having a 2-1 deficit in the series and also upset that some already had written off the Giants.

"Somebody will pay," Leonard declared late Friday night.

Here is how Leonard's revenge motive manifested itself:

With two out in the fifth and the Cardinals holding a 2-1 lead, Kevin Mitchell doubled to left field off Cardinal starter Danny Cox. Up came Leonard, who had hit home runs in each of the first three games.

Cox's first pitch was an inside fastball that Leonard belted--straight up, seemingly. It looked like a routine fly ball to left. Leonard slapped his bat in disgust and headed to first base. Left fielder Vince Coleman had settled on the edge of the warning track, waiting for it to drop.

A few Giant fans in the left-field bleachers spilled out and ran toward the fence to retrieve the ball, but that seemed presumptuous. The the ball kept floating until it landed. Leonard was so surprised he forgot to segue into his home run strut.

Wind-aided or not, Leonard's fourth home run in four games gave the Giants a 3-2 lead that became a 4-2 win after a bases-empty home run by Bob Brenly in the eighth. Second baseman Robby Thompson, who had been 0 for 11, gave the Giants their first run with a fourth-inning home run off Cox.

Krukow, overcoming a shaky, two-run second inning, allowed only five singles over the final seven innings to earn the complete-game win. An assist should go to the Giant defense, which turned four double plays to give them a playoff-record nine for the series.

The Cardinals might not have made it out of the second inning if not for an inning-ending double play on Ozzie Smith's liner to second. He had given up two runs on four straight singles, and Manager Roger Craig had relievers warming up. But Krukow, who had a disappointing 5-6 season, took command after that.

So much for the supporting players. Leonard has taken control of the series. He was, quite simply, hated by fans in St. Louis when he slowly pranced around the bases after two home runs. His derogatory comments on the Cardinal pitchers didn't make him any friends, either. Then, Friday night, he was hit with an apparent brushback pitch after hitting his third home run of the playoffs.

All that was a prelude for Leonard's most dramatic display yet on Saturday night.

Leonard--who says he likes to be called Jeff or Jeffrey or the Hac-Man, depending on his mood--was downplaying the revenge factor afterward. But his perpetual smile gave that away.

"I really don't worry about that stuff," Leonard said. "I just hit the ball."

When pressed, however, Leonard told of a secret clubhouse liaison with his 3-year-old son, Marcus, before the bottom of the fifth inning. Leonard said he wandered back into the clubhouse for a cup of coffee, since he was due up fourth in the inning, and decided to visit the Hac-Kid in an adjacent room that becomes a playpen for the players' children during games. "I spoke to him between the little window," Leonard said. "The kids were just messin' and jivin' around. That just reminded me to release some of the tension and still have fun.

"My son said to me, 'Daddy, what you doing? Are you still playing baseball?' I said, 'Yeah.' . . . I'm not saying that was the reason I hit the home run, but . . . "

OK, so Leonard showed a sensitive side in the clubhouse. But that doesn't detract from his combative persona on the field.

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