PITTSBURGH — Every new day, the Dodgers are revisiting and revising landmarks of past successes.
Saturday night, Ramon Martinez went on his own personal reminiscence, courteously taking the Dodger winning streak along for the ride.
With his teammates scoring quickly and confidently, Martinez discovered his old, hyperactive fastball and recalled a time when no one questioned the soundness of his right arm.
The result was a four-hitter to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-1, before 27,664 at Three Rivers Stadium. It was the Dodgers' 11th consecutive victory, their longest winning streak since 1976 and leaving them only two short of the team's longest mark since it has been in Los Angeles.
"Maybe it's because I'm excited because we're winning, but the way I've felt the last two or three starts. . . . " Martinez said, grinning wide to complete the thought. "We are playing so good, that makes me go harder and harder."
Martinez (4-3), in a sentiment echoed by catcher Mike Piazza and Manager Tom Lasorda, said this was the hardest he has thrown all season, perhaps the hardest he has thrown since 1991. Martinez shut out the Florida Marlins at Dodger Stadium in his last start.
Saturday, Martinez was never really challenged by the Pirate batters, although he challenged them plenty. He took a line drive from the bat of Orlando Merced off his right ankle in the seventh inning, but stayed in the game.
"With him throwing that hard, it makes it easy on a catcher," Piazza said. "If there's ever a hint of a doubt, just put down fastball and let him go. Even though some of the batters knew the fastball was coming, it didn't seem to matter."
Martinez did not allow a runner past second base until there were two outs in the bottom of the ninth, and after the game he expressed disappointment that he gave up a run in the ninth to ruin his shutout.
"I was trying to get it \o7 sooo\f7 bad," Martinez said.
"Just tell the truth," Eric Davis yelled over to Martinez as the pitcher paused to find the right words. "You threw the . . . out of the ball tonight."
Martinez's three-strikeout, no-walk outing continues a run of strong Dodger starting pitching that parallels its winning streak. In the streak, Dodger starters are 7-0 and have given up three earned runs or fewer in nine of the 11 games.
Add that to the team's hitting--the Dodgers entered the game batting .317 during the streak and had their second consecutive 12-hit attack Saturday--and the victories do not come as a mystery.
The Dodgers, who started the streak when they were 14-22, are three games over .500 (25-22), a mark they had not reached since the end of 1991.
The Dodgers staked Martinez to a 3-0 lead against starter Dave Otto (2-3) in the second inning. The runs came on a home run by right fielder Cory Snyder, his first; doubles by first baseman Eric Karros and second baseman Jody Reed, a single by center fielder Brett Butler and a suicide squeeze by shortstop Jose Offerman.
"I stand on the mound and I am thinking, 'I have three runs, whoa, this is it,' " Martinez said. "I just starting whomping my fastball."
Martinez, who threw 131 pitches against the Pirates, had a perfect game through 3 2/3 innings before Andy Van Slyke's fourth-inning single. Van Slyke's sacrifice fly also broke up the shutout.
The Dodgers tacked on a fourth run in the fifth inning when Piazza battled Otto to a 3-2 count, fouled off several pitches, then hit a single past shortstop Jay Bell to drive in Offerman.
"It was a pretty good at-bat for me," Piazza said. "I finally got a ball I could handle."
Meanwhile, Offerman was involved in almost everything that happened. He had a sacrifice in the first inning, laid down the squeeze in the second, singled and scored in the fifth, made a lazy error--his 13th--by dropping a line drive in the eighth and tripled high off the right-center-field wall to lead off the ninth.
Piazza drove him in again with another single, making the score 6-0.
"Everything is going right for us," Martinez said. "When you're in that kind of mood, everything is just so easy."