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Astacio Puts on Show to Go With a Shutout

September 13, 1993|MARYANN HUDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He has the best record among Dodger starters, but he is quoted the least. The English language is still a barrier for Pedro Astacio, but expression is not. And, with Astacio, well . . .

"You never know what he's going to do," Todd Worrell said. "Today he ran backward off the field."

Charged with emotion, his adrenalin finally unleashed, Astacio could barely wait until Gary Sheffield's pop-up fell into Jody Reed's glove for the final out of the Dodgers' 1-0 victory over the Florida Marlins Sunday.

You would have thought Astacio had just pitched a no-hitter, instead of a five-hitter. You would have thought he had never pitched a shutout before, but he did it four times last season.

You would have thought he was a boxer.

Astacio pumped his fist in the air, then held both arms up in victory. He walked restlessly around the infield greeting his teammates. He tipped his cap to what was left of a crowd of 35,335 at Dodger Stadium, dipped into the clubhouse and later greeted reporters with a smile that could grace the cover of a dental magazine.

"My goal was to reach 12 victories," said Astacio, who reached it by improving to 12-8. "For my first full year in the big leagues, that's good."

Why 12?

"I don't want to start at 20, or 16, so I picked 12," he said. "Everything has steps."

Astacio pitched four complete-game shutouts after being called up from Albuquerque last season, but he has labored this season, reaching the eighth inning only twice--both times in his last two starts. After faltering in July with a 2-3 record and a 6.92 earned-run average, Astacio has turned his season around, going 5-2 since and recording a 1.08 ERA over his last six starts. His ERA, 3.75, is as low as it has been in three months.

"It's different for me this season," he said. "Now I know every hitter and know to throw this pitch for that hitter. Last year, I didn't know or had to ask Ramon (Martinez). I've worked hard this year on my pitches."

Astacio also has turned his change-up into almost a screwball-style change, and that has made a difference. It was a pitch that he was just fooling around with in the bullpen, and found that it drops a foot over the plate.

"Nobody can hit it," Astacio said. But Sunday, Astacio relied on his fastball and curveball as he faced only six batters over the minimum, striking out seven and walking two.

"He's always had the velocity, but now he knows how to control it," catcher Mike Piazza said. "He realizes now he doesn't have to be like a robot. He has a good arm and with it he can throw a sinker down the middle that they will pound into the ground. He reads reports and remembers. . . . He has a quiet confidence on the mound now."

Dave Hansen, making his eighth start at third base, scored the Dodgers' run in the sixth inning against Marlin starter Pat Rapp (3-5). He walked and eventually scored on a single by Cory Snyder.

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