Home runs have been so scarce for the Dodgers this season that perhaps each should be cherished as a work of art, no matter its aesthetic value.
Monday night, in a 6-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dodgers unveiled a different type of 3-run home run, viewed by many discriminating fans in the Dodger Stadium crowd of 26,821 as a masterpiece in understatement.
This particular home run "shot," clouted by Steve Sax in the fourth inning, carried maybe 250 feet on the fly, took about seven bounces before coming to a stop and required an accelerated home run trot in which a baserunner was nearly passed heading to home plate.
Yes, it was a seldom-seen inside-the-park home run, made possible by a misplay by Pirate right fielder R. J. Reynolds as well as Sax's swift excursion around the sacks. Reynolds charged Sax's low liner near the foul line, and the ball landed under his glove and bounded to the fence. Danny Heep, Don Sutton and Sax scored on the play, Sax closing the distance on Sutton rounding third base.
"I'll take it anytime," Sax said. "I'll take it just to put points on the board. We needed that."
The home run gave the Dodgers a 5-1 lead entering the fifth inning, when Sutton tired on the mound, gave up two runs, and was chased one out shy of a possible victory.
An inning later, in an effort to give the Dodger bullpen another run to work with, Kirk Gibson hit a more conventional and much more prodigious home run off Pirate reliever Bob Kipper, between the 385- and 395-foot sign in right-center for a 6-3 lead.
That lead was protected quite well by Alejandro Pena, who bailed out Sutton in the fifth, and Jesse Orosco, who bailed out Pena in the seventh and went on to pitch scoreless eighth and ninth innings.
Orosco earned his first win, giving up 1 hit in 2 innings. The loser was Doug Drabek (3-2), who was replaced for a pinch-hitter in the fifth inning.
The home runs by Sax and Gibson, though vastly different in technique, accounted for the win on a night when the Dodgers (14-8) managed just seven hits. The home runs finally put the Dodgers in double figures with 10 in 22 games.
"When I saw the ball get by him," Sax said, "I thought two things: Great, maybe I'll get a couple extra bases. Then, I remembered I had a chest cold, and I thought that it was an awful far way to run."
Reynolds offered no excuses for misplaying the ball.
"It was a line drive and the ball just skipped," Reynolds said. "If it happened again, I'd go after it the same way. It's a situation where, if I make it, it's a shoestring, if I don't, it's a short hop.
"It was a long way back to the (warning) track. But with two outs, I thought it was early enough in the game to try it."
Sax, who went 3 for 3 to improve his batting average to .233, still seemed out of breath afterward, even though the home run came in the fourth inning.
"You know," Sax said, "I didn't even see Sutton ahead of me. Somebody (in the dugout) told me that I almost passed him. In Little League, I passed a guy. (Monday) was as close as I've gotten."
Gibson's home run was his second in four games, and it provided a much-needed cushion for the Dodger relief staff.
Staked to the 3-run lead by the home runs, the Dodgers called upon their bullpen to shut down the Pirates. Pena handled the 5th-inning mess left by Sutton and worked a relatively uneventful sixth before fading in the seventh.
Pena walked Rafael Belliard and pinch-hitter John Cangelosi, the bottom of the order, before striking out Barry Bonds and Jose Lind, the top of the order. Lasorda then went with Orosco against left-handed hitting Andy Van Slyke. Orosco struck out Van Slyke with an assortment of off-speed pitches.
Sutton didn't stay around long enough to reap the benefits of the home runs by Sax and Gibson. Sutton, who said after his first win last week that he resents being a 5- or 6-inning pitcher, didn't even make it that far Monday.
One out away from being the pitcher of record, Sutton ran into problems. Maybe the 43-year-old was winded after trying to stay ahead of Sax on the basepaths during the home run, but he lost his effectiveness in the fifth.
Until that point, Sutton had allowed only one 4th-inning run on a walk to Lind and Bobby Bonilla's double. Sutton, however, unraveled in the fifth, when he made 29 pitches and managed only two outs before Pena was summoned.
Dodger pitcher Tim Leary, in the press box serving as the club's "eye-in-the-sky" Monday night, verbally assaulted official scorer Wayne Monroe after Monday's game. Monroe had awarded the win to Jesse Orosco, who pitched the final 2 innings, instead of Alejandro Pena, who relieved starter Don Sutton in the fifth inning and pitched two scoreless innings. Leary felt that Pena should have been awarded the win and Orosco the save. So, he approached Monroe and engaged the official scorer, who is employed by the National League, in a 5-minute shouting match. Monroe did not reverse his decision.