That punchless Dodger offense might have cost Orel Hershiser yet another decision Tuesday.
Despite regaining his 1985 form in '87, Hershiser finished only fourth in voting for the National League Cy Young Award. He finished with a 16-16 record, largely because of a 2-7 mark in 11 starts in which the Dodgers scored two runs or fewer.
Characteristic of a year in which no National League starter compiled an outstanding record, the award went to relief pitcher Steve Bedrosian of the Philadelphia Phillies. Bedrosian appeared in 65 games, saved 40, a major league high, had a 5-3 record and a 2.83 earned-run average.
In the closest voting ever by a 24-member committee of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America, Bedrosian polled 57 points on the basis of nine first-place votes at five points each, two second-place votes at three points each and six third-place votes at one point each.
The Chicago Cubs' Rick Sutcliffe, the 1984 winner who was 18-10 in 1987, was second with 55 points, followed by Rick Reuschel with 54. Reuschel had a combined record of 13-9 with the San Francisco Giants and Pittsburgh Pirates.
Hershiser got two first-place votes and four third-place votes for 14 points. Dwight Gooden and Nolan Ryan got 12 points each, Mike Scott had 9 and Bob Welch of the Dodgers got 3 on three third-place votes.
Hershiser, who lives in Placentia, said the voting was what he expected.
"When you get a year in which no starting pitcher has a dominant won-and-lost record, then the best pitcher should win it regardless of whether he's a starter or reliever," Hershiser said. "Bedrosian had the best year. I picked him to win it.
"I'm just happy to finish in the top five. I don't mean to downgrade Bedrosian in any way, but it was an off year for starters. Sutcliffe, Reuschel and myself had fine years, but none of us did the one thing that might have put us over the top. We all tailed off in September when we had a chance to win it."
Hershiser was third in the league in ERA at 3.06, and complete games with 10, fourth in strikeouts with 190, and first in innings pitched with 264.
He acknowledged that his consistency was what it was in 1985, when he was 19-3.
Was he frustrated that his record wasn't comparable?
"Not at all," he said. "I'm very happy with the year I had. I'd love to win the Cy Young. It's one of my goals, but it didn't happen. I have to deal in reality. I mean, there's only so much a pitcher can do.
"I lost eight games by one run and another two by two runs. Admittedly, I didn't get a lot of support. Sutcliffe didn't get a lot with the Cubs, and Reuschel didn't get much when he was with the Pirates. None of us received the type support that results in an outstanding won-and-lost record, which is what everyone looks at."
There was more to look at than Bedrosian's 5-3. His 40 saves represented half of the Phillies' total of 80 wins. Starting May 25, he registered saves in 13 straight appearances, a major league record.
"I've accomplished some things that I hope will stand for a long time but this is the ultimate," the 29-year-old Bedrosian said during a press conference in Philadelphia. "I heard people say I had a chance at winning it, but I didn't want to get too excited. I've always thought that pitching in a World Series would be the top accomplishment, but I don't know how you can beat being selected the league's best pitcher."
Bedrosian is the third relief pitcher to win the NL award. Mike Marshall of the Dodgers won it in 1974, and Bruce Sutter, then with the Cubs, won it in 1979. It is the fourth time a Philadelphia pitcher has won it in this decade, after Steve Carlton in 1980 and '82, and John Denny in 1983.
The closest previous vote since the inception of separate league awards in 1967 was in 1981, when Fernando Valenzuela of the Dodgers edged Tom Seaver, then with Cincinnati, 70-67.
Although Hershiser said he had no problem with the 1987 vote, he has been an outspoken critic of the Dodgers' refusal to sign free agent Tim Raines last winter, a move that might have improved the offense.
Now, recovering from arthroscopic surgery to remove torn cartilage in his right knee, Hershiser is hopeful that management will choose a new course.
He is also hopeful of avoiding a third straight year of salary arbitration, hopeful that management, which won its bid for a 20% salary cut last winter, will look beyond his won-lost record.
Bedrosian, whose two-year contract runs out at the end of 1988, made $950,000 last season. For winning the Cy Young, Bedrosian received a $100,000 bonus.