The timing of Orel Hershiser's comeback wasn't lost on the Houston Astros Wednesday night.
The Astros were well aware that the Dodgers had orchestrated his return to take advantage of a last-place lineup in the familiar surroundings of Dodger Stadium. Only they refused to play their role.
Instead, the Astros got four runs and nine hits in the first inning to spoil Hershiser's first major league appearance in 13 months.
"I think the guys didn't take kindly to them thinking we were an easy touch," Astro Manager Art Howe said. "That woke us up a bit."
Said catcher Craig Biggio: "It's just a decision they made and it backfired. We kept putting pressure on him and hit the ball well."
The Astros got to Hershiser in bits and pieces--a variety of infield hits, a well-executed hit-and-run and a balk.
Biggio was three for three against Hershiser to raise his career totals against him to 13 for 22. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez was two for three against Hershiser.
"He threw the ball well," Biggio said. "His velocity was there, he had sink on it. It wasn't like we were crushing the ball, we just put it in play. His motion was the same, we clocked him at 91 (m.p.h.) on the gun. He just hasn't been there for a while, he was behind in the count and it's hard to pitch that way. They've got to get him some innings and he'll be back to his old self."
Rafael Ramirez, the Astro with the most experience against Hershiser, thought Hershiser wasn't throwing as hard as he has. "He used to throw a little bit harder," the veteran infielder said. "I don't see too many fastballs, he threw a lot of breaking balls. Maybe he tried to make them too good the first time.
"All the young guys, they get a little excited when they hear they play against him, and we got him. It makes it a little bit different when we get him real early, that makes him work a little harder."
Finley, who came to the Astros from the Baltimore Orioles over the winter and had never faced Hershiser, was one of those curious to get a look.
"Everybody (in Los Angeles) wanted to come out and see Orel pitch a great game," Finley said. "He didn't seem to have velocity, but he made some good pitches."