The Dodgers knew what could happen. They had heard the tales of the Oakland Athletics' apocalyptic offense, impenetrable defense and pitching arsenal. Like survivalists in Montana, they said they were prepared.
But who could possibly have warned the A's of this improbable Dodger onslaught, so swift and decisive as to seem almost unreal?
Sunday night, in Game 2 of the World Series before 56,051 fans at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers used the pitching of Orel Hershiser, the hitting of Orel Hershiser plus others and the tenacious attitude of Orel Hershiser for a 6-0 victory over the A's that gives L.A. a 2-games-to-none lead.
"We've got a long way to go in this Series," said right fielder Mike Marshall, who supported Hershiser's 3-hit shutout with a 3-run home run and a triple. "If we win 2 more, we can celebrate."
The Dodgers, it seems, are for real. Having put the favored A's in a 2-game hole heading to the Bay Area for Game 3 Tuesday night, they can no longer use the element of surprise as one of their weapons.
That is all right with the Dodgers. They still have Hershiser, whose status as a folk hero reached almost the magnitude of Kirk Gibson's in a performance that makes Hershiser the leader in MVP voting for most versatile player.
Not only did Hershiser improve his amazing run to just 3 earned runs allowed in his last 93 innings, he equaled the hit total of the vaunted A's with 2 doubles and a single, and had 1 run batted in.
Of such stuff legends are made. Hershiser does not have Gibson's flair, spiked hair or carnivorous stare, but he can be just as intimidating. And Hershiser's effort Sunday night was just as important to the Game 2 victory as Gibson's dramatic 2-run home run in Game 1.
Lasorda called Hershiser's stretch of sustained excellence, which included a shutout against the New York Mets last Wednesday in Game 7 of the National League championship series, the best he has ever seen by a pitcher.
"It's an unbelievable accomplishment," Lasorda said. "He is, without a doubt, an outstanding pitcher. He broke (Don) Drysdale's record (for consecutive scoreless innings) and, had the regular season kept going, who knows how many goose eggs he would have put up there."
So, all right, the guy can pitch. But what's with that offense?
While Hershiser was easily handling the A's muscular lineup of Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire and Dave Henderson, who combined to go 0 for 11, the ectomorphic Dodger starter was hammering A's pitchers.
In the Dodgers' breakthrough third inning against loser Storm Davis, Hershiser singled and scored the Dodgers' first run. Turns out, it was the only run he would need.
An inning later, Hershiser slashed a double down the right-field line to score Alfredo Griffin from first base for the Dodgers' sixth run against Davis.
When Hershiser doubled again in the sixth inning off reliever Curt Young, it was the first time since 1924 that a pitcher had 3 hits in World Series game.
You would think that all of his hits, plus offensive support from Marshall, Franklin Stubbs and Mickey Hatcher, would make Hershiser relax and coast through the latter stages of this one. But that's not why Lasorda calls him Bulldog.
Hershiser said he felt more pressure not to let up in the face of good fortune.
"When something positive happens, like (the Game 1) win or my hitting, that puts the monkey on my back. I didn't want to leave here with a split and have it be my fault. I didn't want to blow a 5-0 lead, either. It's a burden I'm carrying."
That's not all Hershiser was carrying Sunday night.
In his back pocket was a laminated sheet of paper, about the size of a credit card, with all his information about A's hitters. Before the start of the game, Hershiser took Doug Harvey, the umpire crew chief, and plate umpire Durwood Merrill aside and told him what he had in his possession and not to panic if he referred to it occasionally.
"It was my cheat sheet, but I won't say what was on it," Hershiser said. "I referred to it 2 or 3 times."
Whatever information Hershiser gleaned from scouting reports must have helped, because the only A's hitter who could figure him out was Dave Parker, who accounted for all 3 hits.
Maybe it was just another dose of Hershiser's dominance, but the A's certainly have picked a bad time to segue into a team slump. Since Canseco's resounding grand slam off Tim Belcher in the second inning of Game 1, the A's have just 7 hits--1 extra-base hit--in 16 innings.
Although a Hershiser shutout has become a common occurrence, Dodger players have not become blase about it.
"He's capable of doing this every game," catcher Mike Scioscia said of Hershiser, who disposed of the A's in 107 pitches.
Added Marshall: "When we walk on the field with Orel on the mound, we rise to the occasion. Everybody gets up when No. 55 is pitching. We rise to the occasion. Alfredo and (Steve) Sax made some great double plays, and we played well behind him. We just have more confidence."