It's one thing to be the losing pitcher. It's another thing to be the losing pitcher in relief for a second consecutive game when you feel you're really a starter.
And it's yet another thing to have all of this happen at 1 a.m., Which is about when Dodger pitcher Tim Belcher engaged in a shouting match, and nearly a boxing match, with umpire Ed Montague Wednesday morning after a 17-inning, 5-3 loss to the San Diego Padres.
In a game that finally ended after the Padres took advantage of a crazy-hop single by Tony Gwynn to start their two-run rally in the 17th, the strangest play of the night happened 20 minutes later, after the Dodger offense had failed to score and saddled Belcher with another loss.
According to witnesses, after the game, home plate umpire Montague was escorted by sportscaster Ross Porter toward the Dodger dugout to appear on the postgame radio show. As Montague neared the dugout, Belcher spotted him and began screaming for Montague to leave.
Montague began screaming back, and the men approached each other. According to Montague, Dodger coach Joe Ferguson finally grabbed Belcher and pulled him away while Dodger coach Bill Russell also intervened. No contact was made.
Montague said he would do nothing more than inform National League President Bill White of the incident, and indicated that he would likely not file an official report.
"I had my say, it was just two men screaming at each other, nothing more," Montague said. "I think going to the league might be a little like going to the teacher and telling on somebody. He was frustrated, I was tired."
Not that Montague wasn't also surprised.
"I'm just walking in there with Ross and then I hear this stuff and I yell at Belcher, 'You talking to me?' " recounted Montague, who had just flown in Tuesday morning from Cincinnati and had been doing deep knee bends behind the plate for the entire 5-hour 21-minute game. "I thought, 'Hey, I'm not going to take this stuff from anybody, I don't care if it's Tim Belcher, I don't care who it is.' It was completely uncalled for."
Belcher, who earlier this season shouted at teammates after a loss, agreed. Once again, the second-year player said he was a victim of frustration.
"It wasn't anything against Eddie, if it wasn't him, I would have yelled at a teammate, or maybe even gone home and yelled at my wife," Belcher said. "If anything, he did remarkably well for what time of day it was. I was just frustrated with how everything had turned out that night. All my life, I've expected to succeed every time I go out there. Sometimes I'm harder on myself than anybody else. I don't think that's a fault, but sometimes . . . "
Tuesday night was one of those times, as Belcher entered the game in the 14th inning, maybe a little weary. He had been the losing pitcher in Monday night's 5-3 loss at Cincinnati, and had been lifted from the rotation Saturday to make room for Tuesday's starter John Tudor.
He gave up one hit in three innings, but in the meantime the Dodgers had only two hits off Padre relievers. Then came the 17th, when Gwynn led off with a one-out grounder that bounced over the head of second baseman Dave Anderson. Three pitches later Gwynn stole second, just beating Anderson's tag. Jack Clark was then intentionally walked, bringing up Chris James, who at the time was one for seven in the game.
But James stuck out his bat and grounded a ball between first and second base, scoring Gwynn and sending Clark to third. Garry Templeton then drove in Clark with a flyball to left. After the Dodgers went down in order against winner Pat Clements, Belcher had fallen to 4-8 with a 3.28 earned-run average.
Don't look for the Dodgers to do anything in this incident other than remind Belcher to keep his cool. But maybe remind him more than once.
"Stuff like this happens, but he didn't bump him, everything is OK, it's over, now we go on," Ferguson said. "From something like this, you learn."