Motivation can come from unusual sources, but Wednesday night the Dodgers needed to look no farther than their clubhouse walls, which were decorated with the published prose of New York Mets pitcher and budding sportswriter David Cone.
Reading all about their failures in Game 1 of the National League championship series, as told by the Met pitcher to the New York Daily News, Dodger hitters seemed intent on making Cone issue a retraction for his derisive comments about pitchers Orel Hershiser and Jay Howell.
But the Dodgers accomplished more than that. They turned Cone's start in Game 2, before 55,780 fans at Dodger Stadium, into a horror story for the Mets that might warrant bold headlines in New York tabloids.
Suggested one: "Dodgers Invoke Cone of Silence."
They knocked around Cone, the Mets' 20-game winner, for 5 runs and 5 hits in 2 innings en route to a 6-3 victory that evened the series at a game apiece heading into Game 3 Friday night in New York.
Dodger starter Tim Belcher will like what he sees in his newspaper this morning. The hard-throwing right-hander came within two outs of a complete game before faltering in the ninth. But he earned the win, as reliever Alejandro Pena bailed out both Belcher and reliever Jesse Orosco for the save.
Still, Belcher pitched a 5-hitter and struck out a career-high 10 batters. His only mistake was a 2-run home run to Keith Hernandez in the fourth inning, which had the bullpen phone buzzing.
But Belcher carried on and gave the Dodgers the lift they needed after Tuesday night's 3-2 loss.
Belcher and Cone's column, that is.
If, as the pointed prose appearing under Cone's name had read, Hershiser was "lucky" to pitch 8 shutout innings in the opener and Howell had the curveball of a high school pitcher, what could you say about Cone on this night?
Well, plenty, if you're the Dodgers.
Mickey Hatcher, a surprise starter at first base and one of the Dodgers' main contributors, called Cone's column "bush" before the game and said the Dodgers would not dignify what they believed was a blatant lack of respect.
"Some of the guys out there were bringing it up every inning," Hatcher said. "But when I was out there playing, I didn't think about it. My brain can't handle thinking of two things."
Belcher was thinking of little besides Met hitters and Cone's column.
"I think (the column) backfired on him," Belcher said. "We came in the clubhouse, and we felt down from that disheartening loss. That article may be what fired us up. I don't know."
Cone said afterward that he meant his comments, dictated to a ghost writer, facetiously.
Said Met catcher Gary Carter: "It always seems like when you say something, it comes back to haunt you. I'm sure David regrets what he said a little bit. . . . I'm sure he learned a lesson tonight."
Carter, asked if the Dodgers really could use such a column as motivation, said: "Oh absolutely. I'm sure they used it that way. After the way they lost last night, they could have fallen flat. But they didn't."
Other Dodgers took the diplomatic route.
The copies of Cone's column, tacked above several lockers as well as the clubhouse door before the game, had been taken down by the time the media entered. The stack of copies on Manager Tom Lasorda's desk had been whisked away.
Hershiser declined to comment on the story, as did Marshall and others.
"I don't know what he'll write (for today)," Lasorda said, smiling. "He's a great writer, I know that."
Cone could do little right against a Dodger offense that had spent nearly all of September and most of Game 1 in a slump.
A 2-out balk in the first inning, coupled with a bloop single by Mike Marshall helped account for the Dodgers' first run.
Then came the second inning, and Cone's downfall. He allowed run-scoring singles to Steve Sax and Marshall and a 2-run double by Hatcher, who replaced Franklin Stubbs at first base. Marshall, emerging as the Dodgers' most consistent hitter in the playoffs since Kirk Gibson has been struggling with injuries, went 3 for 4 with 2 RBIs. Hatcher scored 2 runs and had 2 RBIs.
With a big lead, Belcher kept the Mets silent until the ninth, which was the Dodgers' downfall inning in Game 1. But there was no sequel, although the story line seemed vaguely familiar.
Belcher allowed a leadoff double to Len Dykstra, who scored two batters later on Hernandez's single. Out went Belcher and in came Orosco, the former Met. It was not a sparkling return for Orosco, who gave up a single to Darryl Strawberry.
Pena nailed down the victory, but not without anxious moments. After forcing Kevin McReynolds to foul out, Pena walked Howard Johnson to load the bases. But Carter, whose bloop double in the ninth inning helped win Game 1 for the Mets, flied to Marshall in right field for the final out.
"No magic tonight," Carter said. "But I felt good about it. After he walked HoJo, I felt the presence. I really thought I'd come through.