Some nights, Dodger pitcher Orel Hershiser just doesn't have it. When that happens, either the Dodgers will lose or Hershiser will somehow find a way to rise above his shortcomings out of sheer perseverance.
Then, there is a third option, one not often available to Dodger pitchers so far this season--an offensive bailout.
Friday night, when Hershiser's pitches sometimes wafted between wild and wicked and the St. Louis Cardinals got to him for three early runs, Dodger hitters, for a change, came to the aid of their pitcher.
The result was a 6-4 win over the Cardinals before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 44,301 that saw Kirk Gibson hit his first home run at home and Hershiser, himself, drive in the game-winning run with a sixth-inning grounder that Cardinal shortstop Ozzie Smith bobbled.
"We helped him out tonight," Gibson said. "That's what being a team is all about. He's pitched some great games when we haven't hit. Let's face it, pitching has carried us so far. But I think that will change."
It did Friday night against Cardinal starter Danny Cox, who allowed 4 runs in 6 innings, and reliever Scott Terry, who yielded Gibson's 2-run home run to center field in the seventh inning.
The early offensive production was provided by hot-hitting catcher Mike Scioscia, who went 2 for 4 and had 2 RBIs. Scioscia has 6 RBIs in his last 3 games.
Hershiser's sixth-inning grounder brought home Mike Davis with the go-ahead run, and Gibson gave the Dodgers a 6-3 lead with his second home run of the season.
Hershiser ran into problems in the ninth and was replaced by Jay Howell, who earned his second save despite giving up an unearned run.
"This definitely was my worst start," Hershiser said. "But I went 8 innings and I still won. To start off 5-0, you got to have breaks like tonight. I knocked in a run, Gibby hit the home run and Jay Howell did a good job saving it."
Hershiser struggled early and never really hit stride. He struck out a season-high 7 batters but also walked a season-high 5. Hershiser, who allowed 3 earned runs and 5 hits in 8-plus innings, still was strong enough to improve his record to 5-0.
The win, which kept the Dodgers (13-6) in first place in the National League West, tied Hershiser with Dwight Gooden of the New York Mets for the league lead in wins. It also is the first time Hershiser has won five straight games to open the season.
Before Friday night, Hershiser had allowed only 4 runs in 32 innings. But Cardinal slugger Bob Horner gave an indication that Hershiser's domination might cease, hitting a bases-empty home run to lead off the second inning. And, in the fifth, Hershiser gave up two walks, which turned into runs thanks to Willie McGee's triple to right field.
Hershiser began the ninth inning trying to notch his third complete game, which also would have tied him for the league lead. But he yielded a leadoff single to Tom Brunansky, who went to second when the ball bounced past Gibson in left field.
Manager Tom Lasorda then replaced Hershiser with Howell, who got Tony Pena to fly to right, moving Brunansky to third. Howell was one out away from ending it when pinch-hitter Jose Oquendo grounded to third baseman Jeff Hamilton, sent in as a defensive replacement for Pedro Guerrero.
Hamilton bobbled the ball halfway across the infield, allowing Brunansky to score to narrow the Dodger lead to 6-4. But Howell, after walking Vince Coleman, struck out Smith to earn his second save in as many opportunities.
So, even though Dodger pitching--and, late in the game, the defense--wasn't at its best, the Dodgers still managed to win thanks to a healthy offensive output.
Despite his home run, only the Dodgers' eighth this season, Gibson is hitting .246 and wondering what has gone wrong. However, Gibson is 7 for 17 with runners in scoring position.
"I've just been terrible, period," Gibson said. "If I knew why, I wouldn't be terrible. I'm constantly making adjustments, almost from at bat to at bat. I've just got to let my hands do it. I've been struggling a little bit."
On a night when Guerrero (tendinitis in his right knee) returned to the lineup after missing one game, the Dodgers responded with 10 hits, Guerrero going 1 for 3.
"I've been fortunate that they've scored runs for me," Hershiser said. "(Don) Sutton hasn't had many breaks offensively. Tim (Leary), in his last outing, we didn't score many runs. Same thing with (Tim) Belcher."