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Sweeping Changes No Good : Dodgers: Strawberry and Davis sit, but Cardinals make it three in a row, 4-2.


After spending 15 innings in a cold dugout Wednesday night, Dodger Manager Tom Lasorda went home tired and frustrated. He was supposed to celebrate his 43rd wedding anniversary after the game with his wife, Jo, but instead watched as his players blew countless opportunities at the plate in a 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was about 4:30 Thursday morning before he fell asleep, but by then he had decided what to do.

He benched his sluggers.

Darryl Strawberry and Eric Davis sat out Thursday night's 4-2 loss to the Cardinals at Dodger Stadium.

"I know I stink," Strawberry said. "It's not the first time, and it won't be the last time. But the cream always rises to the top, and when it does the fans will be right there again."

Lasorda also shook up his pitching staff. With the score tied, 2-2, and his bullpen having worked 14 innings in the last two games, Lasorda brought in Kevin Gross in the eighth inning in relief of starter Pedro Astacio.

By the end of the inning, the Cardinals had scored the winning run and went on to sweep the three-game series as the Dodgers lost their fourth consecutive game.

"It's terrible," Lasorda said. "We've got to break out of this thing. We've got to get a good winning streak going. We're losing tough ballgames. Tim Wallach hit the ball hard all night, but that's just the way it is."

In place of Strawberry and Davis, Lasorda played Mitch Webster in left field and Cory Snyder in right. He moved rookie catcher Mike Piazza to Davis' third spot in the lineup, and Piazza hit a home run to right field in the first inning. Eric Karros batted cleanup.

But the Dodgers were still held to six hits through eight innings by Cardinal starter Rene Arocha. Lee Smith pitched the ninth for his third consecutive save and some in the crowd of 42,171 had begun chanting "Dar-ryl, Dar-ryl."

"Every year I go through this at the start of the season, in New York or in L.A., the fans boo, boo, boo in April," Strawberry said. "I haven't had one good April my whole career. But I know I am not a .129 hitter, I can tell you that right now."

Strawberry, who is expected to be in the lineup tonight, has one hit in his last 19 at-bats and the worst batting average on the team. Davis has stolen five bases but is hitting .167.

"I don't know why you get in a groove or out of a groove," Strawberry said. "When I get back in and start hitting, it's not like I can tell you why I wasn't. That's the thing about baseball. You can never figure that out. You go up to the plate and your swing looks good and you look good, but you still aren't hitting."

Strawberry cannot remember an April worse than this one, but says his back is fine and, other than having normal stiffness, it is not affecting his batting.

"There are certain things I have to live through since my back surgery (in September), but my back is no excuse, I have no excuse," Strawberry said.

Astacio struggled through the first inning, giving up two runs on a walk, a balk and two singles. Piazza ended the inning when he caught Mark Whiten, who had singled, off first base and threw him out diving back to the bag.

Astacio settled down after that, pitching out of a jam in the fourth inning with help from Jody Reed, who fielded a single by Whiten off his glove and made a perfect throw to Tim Wallach at third base to get Ray Lankford.

The Dodgers tied the score in the second inning when Webster singled, stole second base and scored on a single to left field by Jose Offerman.

In the eighth, Gross walked leadoff hitter Ozzie Smith, and Gregg Jefferies followed with a single. Gross then walked Lankford to load the bases. Whiten grounded into a force play at the plate, but Todd Zeile hit a fly ball to deep center to score Jefferies and move Lankford to third. Whiten then got caught in a rundown trying to steal second, and Lankford scored before the third out could be made.

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