Not even one transplanted New Yorker at Dodger Stadium Saturday night had the gumption to hang "K" signs from the upper deck to keep a running tabulation of Dwight Gooden's strikeout total, as is customary at Shea Stadium.
But then, such a display really wasn't needed on this masterful Gooden outing. Perhaps, they should have posted "G" banners, signifying grounders, because Gooden forced 18 ground-outs as the New York Mets beat the Dodgers, 4-0, on Gooden's four-hitter.
A much more serious loss for the Dodgers came in the fifth inning when shortstop Alfredo Griffin was hit on the right hand by a Gooden fastball. X-rays showed that Griffin has a broken bone in his hand. The Dodgers said he has been put on the 21-day disabled list. Dave Anderson replaced Griffin Saturday night, and the Dodgers will recall Mike Sharperson from Albuquerque to fill Griffin's roster spot.
By Gooden's lofty standards, his six strikeouts were a modest sum. But he still was overpowering, allowing only two hits out of the infield and three Dodger runners to reach second base.
As a result, the Dodgers' fourth loss in the last five games gave Gooden his National League-leading eighth win. He is undefeated in 10 starts, posting five complete games and two shutouts.
The Dodgers (22-16) haven't faced Gooden since 1986, but they found that nothing has changed. Well, maybe a little. Gooden, at least in this outing, relied more on his cruel curveball than on his intimidating fastball, resulting in all those ground-outs.
"My first couple of years, I just tried to throw as hard as I could," Gooden said. "Now, I try to use all my pitches. They are used to seeing fastballs on the first pitch, but Gary (Carter, the catcher) called a lot of first-pitch curves.
"I probably won't do it (get strikeouts) as often, but I know I can do it when I have to."
When Gooden wasn't anesthetizing Dodger hitters, erasing baserunners twice with double-play grounders, the Mets' defense twice lent its support.
In the fifth inning, with Griffin on second base after being hit and stealing a base, first baseman Keith Hernandez made a diving stop of pinch-hitter Franklin Stubbs' ground ball and threw him out to end the threat.
And in the seventh, center fielder Len Dykstra made a running catch of Mike Scioscia's liner with two out after John Shelby had doubled to center.
"(Gooden) pitched a great game tonight," Scioscia said. "He used his breaking ball effectively and spotted his fastball well. We hit a couple balls hard, and if Hernandez hadn't gotten Franklin's ball, it'd been a run and maybe a different game."
Results of Griffin's X-rays were not available until well after the game, but one immediate result of the incident was that Dodger reliever Brian Holton (coincidentally or not) hit the Mets' Howard Johnson in the right leg with his first pitch in the top of the sixth. Plate umpire Dave Pallone warned Holton for intentionally throwing at Johnson, and there were no further incidents.
Said Holton, asked if he tried to hit Johnson: "No, I just wanted to get a fastball inside and it got away from me. (Pallone) just warned us. I couldn't hear what he said."
Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda said he thought Gooden should have been warned after hitting Griffin.
Said Gooden: "I'm not trying to hit him in that situation. I had two strikes on Griffin, and I wanted to get him out."
The loss went to Tim Belcher (3-2), who did not pitch poorly but certainly not good enough to overcome Gooden and the Mets. Belcher, coming off a complete-game victory last Sunday, gave up four runs and seven hits and hurt himself with two wild pitches in five innings Saturday night.
New York has scored 133 runs in Gooden's 10 starts and only 127 in the other 20 games. So, Gooden obviously is used to having runs to work with.
Dodger hitters, however, have totaled only four runs in the last four games.
Not known for his hitting, of course, Gooden nonetheless gave the Mets a 2-0 lead in the second innning with a single to right field that scored Johnson and Mookie Wilson.
Gooden, whose six runs batted in this season are only two behind the Dodgers' Mike Davis, hit a Belcher fastball in the center of the plate. It was the last of several pitching mistakes that inning. He gave up a one-out single to Johnson, then Wilson slashed a double to left.
Logic dictated that with first base open, the Dodgers would walk Dave Magadan to pitch to Gooden. Which they did. But Gooden lined Belcher's first pitch to right field.
The Mets didn't threaten again until the fourth. With two out and Wilson on first after a fielder's choice, Met Manager Davey Johnson put Mookie on the move. Wilson stole second and eventually went to third on Belcher's wild pitch. But Belcher struck out Magadan for the third out.
In the fifth, Belcher tried to extricate himself from another jam by using strikeouts, but he could not do it.