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Dodgers' Bulldog at Plate Leads the Way Past Pirates

August 24, 1993|CHRIS DUFRESNE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

As the legend of Orel Hershiser, the hitter, continued Monday night, the legend of Hershiser the pitcher was reprised in the Dodgers' 6-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Hershiser entered the game on a pace to break the National League single-season record for average by a pitcher, .406, set by New York's John Bentley in 1923.

But few are talking much about Hershiser's fastball anymore.

Rather, would the Pirates pitch around him? Walk him intentionally? Would it be enough to keep 38,739 fans in their Dodger Stadium seats on Dodger Dog night?

The drama began to unfold when Hershiser and his .407 average led off the third inning in a scoreless game.

No way you pitch around a leadoff man.

Pittsburgh starter Zane Smith tried to sneak one past the batter, only to see Hershiser square his bat and poke a bunt up the first base line.

Smith stormed toward the ball, but bobbled it upon arrival.

"I hadn't faced Zane in a while. . . . I thought I'd try to go that way with a bunt," Hershiser said. "That's luck."

Hershiser was awarded a hit, temporarily increasing his average to .418.

It sparked a Dodger onslaught, five runs in all.

It was all the scoring the Dodgers needed to chase Smith (3-6), who lasted one out into the fourth, and make a winner of Hershiser (9-12).

It was the Dodgers' fifth consecutive victory.

Hershiser gave up one earned run and six hits in 7 2/3 innings, losing his shutout on Orlando Merced's two-out, run-scoring single in the eighth.

After the Dodgers made the score 6-1 in the eighth on Jose Offerman's run-scoring double, reliever Todd Worrell pitched a scoreless ninth.

"I threw pretty well," Hershiser said. "I can throw to any location on any count, and that helps. . . . It kept them off balance."

Despite his pitching, it was Hershiser's hitting that stole the show. He was two for three to increase his average to .421.

After his bunt single in the third, Brett Butler moved him to second with a sacrifice bunt. Three consecutive hits followed, the first Offerman's sharp single to right, too sharp for Hershiser to advance beyond third.

Mike Piazza drove Hershiser home with a ground-ball single to right. Cory Snyder drove Piazza home with a ground-rule double to right. After a groundout, Smith walked Eric Davis, a .235 hitter, to load the bases for Tim Wallach, batting .223.

Wallach made Smith pay, lining a double to center past the out-stretched reach of Al Martin, three runs scoring.

For some reason, the Pirates wanted a piece of Hershiser again, issuing an intentional walk to Jody Reed, a .270 hitter, to get to the pitcher's spot.

Hershiser pulled a Smith pitch barely foul down the left-field line before grounding into a force play.

Hershiser came to bat again with two out and one on in the fifth and lashed a Blas Minor pitch to center for his second hit, reaching .421.

Joked Wallach: "I'll tell you, a lot of hitters are getting tired of it. . . . He makes it look too easy. A lot of us are struggling to get one hit a game."

Said Hershiser: "It's fun. . . . The fun part is the way the crowd is getting into it."

Hershiser the pitcher wasn't bad, either, earning his first victory since July 26. But, understandably, Hershiser would rather talk about his batting this season.

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