HOUSTON — The Dodgers all but fled Texas Sunday, headed for Atlanta, where today they'll face what almost qualifies as a break in the schedule.
Only a doubleheader against the Braves awaits them.
After what the Houston Astros put them through over the weekend, the Dodgers might look at two nine-inning games as a breather.
Of course, they're only scheduled for nine innings.
They could go longer.
"I'm just glad to be getting the hell out of here," Tim Belcher told reporters in the Astrodome. "These guys could beat the '27 Yankees, the way they're playing."
His reference was to the Astros, who overcame a six-run deficit to beat the Dodgers, 7-6, on a 13th-inning sacrifice fly by Mike Scott.
The victory was the Astros' 10th straight, extending the longest such streak in the major leagues this season and equaling a club record.
Among the victories were four straight over the Dodgers, including a 22-inning marathon Saturday night that wasn't decided until Rafael Ramirez produced a run-scoring single Sunday at 2:50 a.m., CST, ending the longest night game in major league history after 7 hours 14 minutes.
Those who speculated that such a loss might send the Dodgers into an even deeper tailspin--they've lost six of seven--were surprised when the Dodgers scored five runs in the first inning Sunday afternoon.
"Our mood was good all morning," said catcher Mike Scioscia, whose first career grand slam was the inning's highlight. "It was good even when they came back and tied the score."
Jeff Hamilton's run-scoring double made it 6-0 in the third.
So how did the Dodgers lose it?
The game turned on a disputed call in the fifth inning by first-base umpire Paul Runge, who ruled that pinch-hitter Billy Hatcher, after grounding to first baseman Eddie Murray, beat the throw from Murray to Belcher.
Television replays indicated that Hatcher was out.
"I didn't have to see the replay," Belcher said. "In my opinion, it wasn't even close."
The disputed single scored a run, cutting the Astros' deficit to 6-1, and left the bases loaded with one out.
More important, it seemed to leave Belcher unnerved.
The next batter, seldom-used Louie Meadows, launched a grand slam, his first home run of the season, over the wall in right field.
"I'd be the first one in line to congratulate Louie Meadows for hitting the . . . out of the ball," Belcher said, "but, in my opinion, the whole inning was set up by a bad call at first base. If we get the correct call there, it's a different inning.
"And if they don't bloop a couple, it's different."
Before the controversial call, Ramirez reached first on an infield single, Craig Reynolds flared a single to shallow center and Craig Biggio walked.
If Hatcher had been called out, Belcher said, "I certainly wouldn't have given in to (Meadows) and given him any fastballs even close. But the bases were loaded and I fell behind, 2-0, in the count.
"And he beat me."
Even so, the Astros still trailed, 6-5, as they did with two out in the ninth and Biggio at the plate to face reliever Jay Howell.
What happened next?
"I threw it and he hit it," Howell said.
It landed 390 feet away, beyond the left-field wall.
"That's about the size of it," Howell said.
The Dodgers managed only four hits after the third inning, but one of them was a one-out triple by Chris Gwynn in the 12th.
Reynolds, the Astros' left fielder, then made a running catch on a looping fly ball by Dave Anderson. Usually an infielder, Reynolds followed with a one-bounce side-arm throw to the plate to nail Gwynn, who had tagged.
In the 13th, the Dodgers' Alejandro Pena walked Bill Doran, who stole second and continued to third when catcher Rick Dempsey threw the ball into center field. Pena then walked Ramirez and intentionally walked Reynolds before second baseman Willie Randolph made a nice play, gloving a sharp grounder by Biggio and throwing home for a force.
Scott, though, followed with a fly ball to center fielder Jose Gonzalez, whose throw to the plate was too late to get Ramirez.
The Astros had their sweep.
"You can't say we lost these games here or we lost these games there," Scioscia said. "You've got to give the Astros some credit."
Indeed, Jim Deshaies took a no-hitter into the eighth inning of the first game of the series, a 7-2 Astro victory, and Scott pitched a four-hit shutout Friday. And then the Astros survived two marathons.
They had a starting pitcher, making his first relief appearance, win a game with a sacrifice fly. And an infielder make a key play in the outfield.
"We've had some breakdowns," Scioscia said, "but overall we've played good baseball. We're starting to do the job offensively. We're moving runners along. Now, we just have to get some hits with guys on base.
"Things will work out."
Escaping Texas, perhaps, will hasten the process.
Never before had a game at Houston included two grand slams. The expansion Astros joined the National League in 1962. . . . Mike Scott worked the 13th inning for the Astros to improve his record to 9-3. . . . Before Saturday, the Dodgers were 17-3 in games in which they scored at least four runs. . . . Mickey Hatcher, who strained his left hamstring while running from first base to third in the first inning of Saturday night's game, was placed on the 15-day disabled list by the Dodgers, who moved relief pitcher Ray Searage to the 21-day list. . . . Hatcher was replaced on the roster by pitcher Ramon Martinez, who was recalled from the Dodgers' triple-A affiliate at Albuquerque, N.M., where he was 8-1 with a 2.61 earned-run average and 88 strikeouts in 76 innings. Martinez will start the first game of today's doubleheader at Atlanta.