Shortstop Greg Gagne, squinting and blinking through the best streak of his professional life, finally had to come out of the lineup because of a condition known as pink eye.
Gagne hit in 15 consecutive games, a personal best and the longest Dodger streak of the season, before going zero for three against Marlin right-hander Kevin Brown Wednesday.
Gagne's struggles against Brown is understandable since the Florida pitcher gave up only one hit all night, that to Raul Mondesi. But Gagne had the added burden of trying to hit despite a nagging eye condition that had resisted efforts to control it through medication.
By Thursday, Gagne, who was scheduled to bat second, had blurred vision, forcing Manager Bill Russell to replace him with Tripp Cromer.
Cromer, who hit two home runs Thursday, was asked if he had ever done that before.
As a matter of fact, said Cromer, he did for the Dodgers' triple-A Albuquerque club the day before he was called up in mid-June.
"All I needed was a single to get the cycle," Cromer said. "But instead, I hit another home run."
The reason Cromer keeps shocking people with his home runs is because he only carries 168 pounds on his 6-foot-2 frame.
"I got up to 180," he said, "but I felt fat."
Dodger right-hander Ismael Valdes, eligible to come off the disabled list Monday, is scheduled to test his strained left hamstring by throwing again today.
Valdes, who has yet to throw at full speed, must still show that he can bear weight on the leg before the Dodgers will consider reactivating him.
"If you had asked me a week ago if he'd be ready, I'd have said no way," trainer Pat Screnar said. "But he's made a lot of progress."
Fellow right-hander Ramon Martinez, out since mid-June because of a small tear in the rotator cuff on his throwing shoulder, threw again in the bullpen Thursday. Russell said he was very impressed with Martinez's outing. Martinez is on a program that calls for him to throw every few days, but he remains, even in a best-case scenario, weeks away from returning to action. The Dodgers will require Martinez to throw in simulated games and undergo a rehabilitation assignment before activating him. . . . Roger Cedeno, who sprained his right wrist Wednesday, remains day-to-day, but could, according to Russell, pinch-hit if needed. Cedeno had started 11 consecutive games in center field before getting hurt.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)
Opponent--Atlanta Braves, four games.
Site--Turner Field, Atlanta.
TV--Ch. 5 tonight, Sunday; Ch. 11 Saturday; TBS Monday.
Radio--KABC (790), KWKW (1330).
Records--Dodgers 50-45, Braves 61-34.
Record vs. Braves--3-2.
DODGERS' DENNIS REYES (1-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. BRAVES' DENNY NEAGLE
(12-2, 3.44 ERA)
* Update--The first time he pitched, the Dodgers asked left-hander Dennis Reyes, their Fernando Valenzuela look-alike, to face the division-leading San Francisco Giants in the crucial finale of a four-game series. That was last Sunday. Reyes responded with a victory in his major-league debut, yielding three runs in six innings, striking out six and walking four. Now the Dodgers have an equally difficult task for Reyes. They are asking him to face the Braves in Atlanta and stop a two-game Dodger slide that has cut into the momentum the club had generated by winning 11 of its previous 12. Opposing Reyes will be Neagle, who opened the season by winning seven in a row before he faced the Dodgers in late May. The Dodgers ended that streak with a 2-0 victory. The Dodgers are 2-2 on this trip, which will end in Atlanta, where the Dodgers split their two previous games there this season. The good news: The Dodgers won't have to face Atlanta ace Greg Maddux in this series.
* Saturday, 1 p.m.--Dodgers' Pedro Astacio (5-7, 4.33) vs. Braves' Kevin Millwood (1-0, 0.00).
* Sunday, 10 a.m.--Dodgers' Chan Ho Park (7-5, 3.14) vs. Braves' John Smoltz (8-8, 3.29).
* Monday, 10 a.m.--Hideo Nomo (9-7, 3.64) vs. Braves' Tom Glavine (10-5, 2.89).