CINCINNATI — His team lost to the Cincinnati Reds, 3-1, Friday night, and normally that's all Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda would have seen. That's all he would have felt, or been able to talk about.
But in this town, where a hero's reputation is coming apart in a manner as slow and uncomfortable as the Midwestern midsummer days, these are not normal times. After the Dodgers wasted 10 hits and another fine start by Mike Morgan, Lasorda chose to talk about something he saw an hour before the game.
It was Red Manager Pete Rose entering an empty dugout and grabbing a piece of green railing and just hanging there, staring at the field, for the longest time, alone.
"I looked over there today and saw Pete . . . you rarely see Pete out early like that, and alone," Lasorda said. "I thought, how sad he must be feeling right now. I thought, what is going through his mind right now?
"He finally looked over at me, and I went like this . . . "
Lasorda gestured with his thumb up.
"It's been a long, long tough ordeal for him," Lasorda said. "All I can say is, I hope he didn't bet on baseball."
That sort of hope was severely damaged Thursday when baseball's special investigator, John Dowd, testified that he has substantial evidence Rose bet heavily on baseball games, including Red games. This sort of evidence could lead to Rose being banned from the game for the rest of his life.
Yet, there is still a season to play, and Rose and the Reds were there to play Friday night before a crowd of 33,933. While it may have seemed strange to see Rose calmly managing, and then calmly answering baseball-only questions afterward, what didn't seem strange was that the Dodgers could not take advantage of the distractions.
They let Red starter Jose Rijo off the hook during rallies in the fourth and fifth innings, then blew another rally in the ninth after loading the bases with one out. Overall, it was the 29th game (out of 71) in which the Dodgers have scored two or fewer runs. They have won four of those games.
"We need to start picking each other up--that hasn't happened all year," said Alfredo Griffin, who doubled twice while going three for four to extend his hitting streak to eight games and raise his average to a season-high .250. "We get two guys that start hitting, and then six guys go in a slump. We can't do that."
They can't have innings like the ninth, which typified an entire season in 10 minutes. Against Red reliever John Franco, who appeared ready to blow a save opportunity for only the third time in 21 tries this year, pinch-hitter Mariano Duncan led off with a single to center. After Jeff Hamilton struck out, pinch-hitter Jose Gonzalez grounded a single that shortstop Barry Larkin knocked down and threw late to second, and then Griffin bounced a single up the middle to load the bases.
Up came pinch-hitter Rick Dempsey, who has had a couple of hits and RBIs (in nine at-bats) in that role this year. He took a low pitch for a ball, and then his eyes got wide.
"I was ahead of him and thought I could make him give me my pitch," Dempsey said.
His eyes got so wide, he couldn't wait. He swung at the next pitch, a sinker, and grounded it sharply to Larkin, who started an easy game-ending double play. As quickly and forcefully as Dempsey spiked his batting helmet behind first base, Franco had his league-leading 19th save, and the Dodgers fell one game under .500 again.
Meanwhile, the Reds improved to 39-32, winning yet another game while playing without outfielders Eric Davis (sore hamstring) and Kal Daniels (sore ankle). The record leads some to wonder: Under these worst of circumstances, could Rose be doing his best managing?
"I'm not thinking of the Reds and their problems," Dempsey said. "We've got enough of our own."
Morgan was thinking the same thing. He let the Reds score in only one of his six innings pitched--two runs in the third on a run-scoring single by Larkin and ensuing run-scoring double by Paul O'Neill. And if it hadn't been for the ball Morgan punched into right field for an RBI single in the fifth, the Dodgers would not have scored.
Morgan left the game after six innings, his league-leading ERA moving up slightly to 1.64. But because he is pitching for a team that has scored two or fewer runs in eight of his 13 starts, his record fell to 5-6. And like every pitcher on this staff, he wonders.
"I've given them a chance to win in all but one of my 13 starts, and we've won seven of them (including two no-decisions)," he said. "I've done all I can do. We have our chances but . . . "
Besides the ninth-inning rally, the Dodgers also put runners on first and second with none out in the fourth after Willie Randolph and Eddie Murray hit consecutive singles. But Mike Davis, Mike Scioscia and Jeff Hamilton were unable to get the ball out of the infield against Rijo, who left with back spasms after five innings but was still effective enough (one allowed run) to improve his record to 7-4.