ST. LOUIS — Because of a facial resemblance and similar build, Dodger rookie pitcher William Brennan was frequently mistaken for Orel Hershiser during spring training.
There were moments in Brennan's major league debut here Tuesday night when he resembled Hershiser, this time in form and performance. Those moments, however, were too few to prevent Brennan from being knocked out in the fifth inning of the Dodgers' 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in front of 34,606 in Busch Stadium.
Brennan's first major league loss snapped the Dodgers' six-game winning streak and reduced their National League West lead to seven games over the San Francisco Giants and the Houston Astros. The Dodgers stranded five runners in scoring position, and could not overcome the Cardinals, who chased Brennan with a run in the second inning and two runs in the fifth.
It was not as if Brennan proved to be some cut-rate imitator fresh from the lounge circuit. He pitched well for 4 innings but was hurt by two inopportune walks, two wild pitches, two stolen bases and a balk. Such pitching failings are common against the speedy Cardinals.
"Rookie mistakes?" pitching coach Ron Perranoski said, repeating a question. "I've seen Bobby Welch get caught up in that against these guys."
Though Brennan, 25, said he was aware of the Cardinals' baserunning prowess, it was difficult to prepare for it.
His introduction came in the second inning, when Tom Brunansky walked on five pitches. Brunansky, the Cardinal clean-up hitter, immediately pulled one of his favorite tricks--stealing before the pitcher begins his delivery.
Though Brennan was forewarned in scouting reports, Brunansky pulled it off. Brennan looked to first base, where Danny Heep was holding Brunansky, then momentarily turned to home plate. In that instant, Brunansky broke for second base. Brennan threw to first base, instead of second, and Brunansky was safe.
Mike Laga's subsequent single to center field scored Brunansky, and Brennan was down, 1-0.
"On Brunansky, I was planning to throw over there," Brennan said. "I just didn't see him go. I looked over, looked at home, looked back and he was gone. I didn't hear anyone tell me he was going.
"I knew (Brunansky) liked to do that. (Catcher Mike) Scioscia knew, too. I was just caught off guard. I really didn't think he'd do it on the first pitch."
If Brennan was shaken by the manner in which St. Louis scored its first run, it did not immediately show. He worked uneventful third and fourth innings, but then he again ran into trouble with the Cardinal running game in the fifth.
This time, the Cardinals' rally hit stride with two outs. It began when Brennan made what often can be a grievous mistake--walking leadoff hitter Vince Coleman. The fact that it came with two outs was even more irking to the Dodgers.
After repeated throws to first base, attempting to reduce Coleman's lead, Brennan turned his attention to Ozzie Smith, the batter. On Brennan's second pitch, Coleman stole second.
One pitch later, it looked as if Brennan wanted to make a pickoff attempt on Coleman at second base. But his right knee bent before he began his pickoff move, and Coleman jogged to third base on the balk. Seemingly shaken, Brennan allowed Smith to single to right for a 2-1 Cardinal lead.
With Terry Pendleton up, Brennan threw his second wild pitch, advancing Smith to second. Pendleton then reached first on an infield single to first, Pendleton just barely beating Heep's throw to Brennan covering the bag. Brennan said he thought that he felt his foot hit the bag with the ball before Pendleton's foot hit. By the time Brennan turned to face home plate, Smith had almost crossed for a 3-1 lead.
"I flinched on that balk," Brennan said. "I was hoping they (umpires) didn't see it. I knew going in to it that they were going to run."
Manager Tom Lasorda then sent Perranoski out to replace Brennan, who wasn't the first Dodger pitcher making a debut to be done in by Cardinal runners. On July 4, the Cardinals stole six bases in less than three innings against Bill Krueger, who returned to triple-A Albuquerque shortly thereafter.
Brennan's status is uncertain, but it looks as if he might get another start in one game of a doubleheader next week at San Francisco. Lasorda, however, remained noncommittal. And Perranoski said it is possible that either Tim Leary or Tim Belcher could pitch on three days' rest.
"I asked that question, too, whether this is a one-time deal," Brennan said. "It's my understanding, from talking to Tommy, that they'd give me a couple starts."
Scioscia praised Brennan's pitching and thinks he would improve if given another start.
"He hurt himself," Scioscia said. But overall, he threw well. (St. Louis) is capable of manufacturing runs, so you've got to do the little things to keep them in check. Things like two-out walks and keeping them close to the bag.