MONTREAL — The Dodgers have been playing well lately, and they have increased their lead over their National League West challengers behind excellent pitching. Nevertheless, they felt compelled Tuesday to make another trade for a pitcher who they hope will help them stay successful into October.
So, after Orel Hershiser notched his 18th victory with a 4-2 win over the Montreal Expos, the Dodgers announced that they had acquired left-handed middle reliever Ricky Horton from the Chicago White Sox. Horton fills what Dodger officials believe was the club's final pitching need.
The player the Dodgers sent to Chicago was not named Tuesday night, because he first must clear waivers. But one source said the White Sox will receive pitcher Shawn Hillegas, 23, who was in the Dodgers' rotation earlier in the season before being returned to triple-A Albuquerque.
To make room for Horton on the Dodgers' prospective playoff roster, which must be turned in to the league office Thursday, right-handed pitcher Tim Crews will be deleted from the roster. However, Crews will continue to pitch during the regular season for the Dodgers once the roster expands to 40 players Thursday.
Pitching has carried the Dodgers, who lead the second-place Houston Astros by 6 1/2 games. With the addition of a long-sought left-handed reliever, the Dodger staff appears to have been strengthened for an anticipated playoff meeting with the New York Mets, who are laden with left-handed hitters.
Since Brad Havens' departure in May, the Dodger bullpen has thrived, even though Jesse Orosco was the only left-handed pitcher. With the acquisition of Horton, Manager Tom Lasorda said Orosco will return to a late-inning relief role, and Horton will serve as a set-up man for Orosco and Jay Howell.
Horton, 29, was traded from the St. Louis Cardinals to the White Sox at the start of the season. He has a 6-10 record with a 4.86 earned-run average but has been successful lately, not allowing an earned run in his last 12 relief innings.
Horton, who earns $532,500, will join the Dodgers here tonight. He told Chicago writers after Tuesday night's White Sox game: "I'm excited that I get a chance to go over to a place where the team's in first place."
Horton pitched briefly in relief in the 1985 and 1987 World Series as a member of the Cardinals.
"That's something we knew we were in need of," Lasorda said. "I like (Horton). He's a good set-up man. I don't know how long we've been looking (at Horton), but I do know we've needed one. Orosco's got to be a late-inning pitcher. He can't pitch in the fifth or sixth inning.
"We've been fortunate that we've been doing it without another lefty, because Timmy (Crews) and Brian Holton have done a hell of a job."
No help from any reliever was needed Tuesday night, as Hershiser logged his team-high 10th complete game and, as a bonus, drove in two runs with a third-inning double off hard-luck loser Brian Holman (2-6).
The victory improved Hershiser's record to 18-8 and, with six starts probably remaining, he has a good chance to win 20 games for the first time in his career.
"I'll be very satisfied if I get 20," said Hershiser, who reduced his ERA to 2.84. "But I'm not going to stop there and say, 'See you in the playoffs.' I've got a shot to win 24 (games), and it'll help the team if I do."
The Dodgers, who have won 5 in a row and 12 of their last 15, have totaled only 14 hits in the last three games.
Tuesday night, Hershiser was given a 3-0 lead in the third. Alfredo Griffin, whose home run made him a hero in Monday night's game, singled off second baseman Tom Foley's chest to score Franklin Stubbs from third for the Dodgers' first run. Then Hershiser sliced a double down the right-field line to score John Shelby and Griffin.
Griffin, who raised his average to .173 after going 2 for 3, led off the fifth inning with a double to right field. After Hershiser's sacrifice bunt advanced him to third, Griffin scored on Steve Sax's groundout.
Hershiser's bid for his fourth shutout ended in the fifth, when Tim Raines hit a run-scoring double to left field and Dave Martinez singled home Raines, cutting the Dodger lead to 4-2.
But the Expos did not threaten after that, and the only suspense for the players occurred after the game, when Crews was summoned to Lasorda's office.
Crews, who has a 3-0 record with a 3.60 ERA in 35 appearances, did not take the news well.
"I think it's a mistake to take me off," Crews said of the playoff-roster decision. "For what I've given them this season, in every situation, I feel cheated. But I guess they feel they are doing what's best for the organization.
"As far as I know, I'm part of (the Dodgers') future. But I was told (by Lasorda) that they had to make this move to beat the Mets. Of course, it's a business. But after what I've given them, it's hard. This gives me second thoughts about the Dodgers. If I pitched the way I have left-handed, there's no way they'd make this trade."