The catalytic Kirk Gibson provided yet another lift for the Dodgers Saturday night.
He singled to score the tying run in the ninth inning, then stole second base and scored all the way from second on the ensuing wild pitch to lift the Dodgers to an improbable 4-3 victory over the Montreal Expos before a crowd of 46,743 at Dodger Stadium.
It was the sixth straight victory for the Dodgers, who soared 20 games over .500 for the first time this season and moved 5 1/2 games ahead of both the second-place Houston Astros and San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
John Dopson, a 25-year-old rookie who has restricted the Dodgers to three earned runs in 21 innings of three starts this year, took a one-hit, 3-0 lead into the seventh inning, when the Dodgers began the rally that resulted in Montreal losing its seventh in a row.
Consecutive doubles by Gibson and Mike Marshall made it 3-1 in the seventh. Tracy Woodson homered off Andy McGaffigan to make it 3-2 in the eighth. Then, with one out in the ninth and left-hander Joe Hesketh on the mound, Mickey Hatcher batted for Mike Scioscia and delivered his 10th hit in 29 pinch-hit assignments, a double to left-center.
Dave Anderson ran for Hatcher and scored on Gibson's game-tying single to center, a looping fly that diving shortstop Luis Rivera couldn't glove.
The count then was 1-and-1 on John Shelby when Gibson stole second. Hesketh's next pitch was in the dirt and skipped past catcher Nelson Santovenia to the backstop screen.
Gibson raced to third, took a brief look and sped home, sliding in ahead of Santovenia's wide throw to Hesketh, who was covering the plate and failed to make a tag as the ball popped out of his glove.
Gibson leaped in the air and waved his left arm exultantly as the Dodgers streamed from the dugout to embrace him in a scene generally reserved for October.
Gibson said later that he couldn't recall if he had ever scored from second on a wild pitch.
"I've gone from first to third a few times," he said. "I knew it would be close, and I said, 'Here I come.' If I make it, we win; if I don't, we're in extra innings. We had tied the game and I was in the mood to be aggressive.
"It went through my mind what I would do (after he had stole second). I hesitated when I got to third and saw the ball near the backstop. My adrenaline was pumping with every stride. I mean, once I got going, there was no way I was going to stop. I just pumped my arms and my legs followed."
Said Hatcher, of the momentum that he and Gibson helped sustain: "The greatest thing is that the excitement is there. You can feel it happening. We're having fun as a team. It's just great."
In a pinch, Hatcher has been just that. He insisted that he just closes his eyes and swings, but there is more to it, of course.
"This is my ninth year," he said. "The pressure is off. The more I play, the more I'm just trying to go up and make contact. I know what my role is here. I'm relaxed. I accept it."
Expo Manager Bob Rodgers found it hard to accept what he called the Expos' toughest defeat of the season.
"The Dodgers wanted to win more than we did," he said. "We had a chance to break it open a couple of times, but you've got to want it. We've got to turn this around."
The loss dropped the Expos 8 games behind the idle New York Mets in the National League East.
"I'd be concerned if the Mets were streaking, but they're not. They're not the great team of '86, when the rest of the division was down. They're an ordinary team now. It's not over."
This one appeared to be secure early, when Dopson retired the first 10 Dodger hitters and had a shutout through six innings.
Meanwhile, the Expos built a 3-0 lead against Tim Belcher, who was seeking his seventh straight win.
Tim Raines doubled and scored on a single by Hubie Brooks in the fourth.
Raines singled, Brooks doubled and both Tim Wallach and Tom Foley singled in a two-run sixth.
Tim Crews, Brian Holton and Jay Howell held the Expos hitless over the final 3 innings, with Howell gaining his fourth win in seven decisions after pitching a flawless ninth.
Dopson, who had completed only one of his previous 18 starts, came out after the seventh, when Marshall doubled for his 72nd run batted in. Woodson's homer off McGaffigan was his second.
And even if Gibson couldn't recall if his 180-foot dash in the ninth was a career first, he and the Dodgers are unlikely to forget it.
Mario Soto did not experience any shoulder problems Saturday after his latest simulated game and will probably pitch just one more before being sent to Bakersfield on rehabilitation assignment, Executive Vice President Fred Claire said. . . . Al Campanis, the club's former executive vice president, and his wife, Georgeanne, watched the game from owner Peter O'Malley's private box.