On the eve of the first of two Pirate-Dodger showdown games in Los Angeles, I overheard this conversation in the rear salon car of the Funky Zipline…
DR. GROSSINGER: In our last session, I believe we were talking about your feelings of sports-rooting inadequacy.
SHERMAN: You were talking. I was ignoring.
DR. GROSSINGER: Yes, but you did admit that the passing of your wife produced a general helplessness before the start of every Dodger game. For instance, tonight’s critical match against Jim Rooker. Wouldn’t you agree that your chances against the rugged, unflappable Pirates are slim at best?
SHERMAN: Speak for yourself, Doc. Pops Stargell isn’t back until Game 153, and after the Candy Man, who thank God we’re missing this time around, your staff ain’t exactly Maddux and Glavine out there.
DR. GROSSINGER: We are discussing you today, Sherman. Not me—
SHERMAN: Yeah, yeah, but enough already. I’m on my last wheels here. What I wanna know is when did you become such a Pirate lackey?
DR. GROSSINGER: Lackey? Certainly an odd choice of word…Regardless, I suppose you can say there was a rooting interest in my family. Which I had…forgotten about. But that really isn’t germane to—
SHERMAN: The hell it isn’t! You got a 2-game lead on me because my bums fell sleep against Paul Moskau last night, but guess what? We’re just back one back in the loss column! How’s our next “session” gonna go after you crawl home to face nothing but Cincinnati, who’s rolled you like pizza dough all year?
DR. GROSSINGER: Oh my, will you look at that. Six p.m. already! Time we headed for the ballpark, right?
Game of the Days
LOS ANGELES—Sherman was right. The final Dodger game with the Reds last night was a disaster, as Rau had nothing, Moskau everything, and stupid errors by Cey and Russell helped the Reds build a 5-0 lead before Lopes tried to make things interesting with a futile 2-run shot in the 8th.
But tonight the air is radioactive. Standing room only, which we actually have to spring for, though it does make it easier to keep Sheila and Sherman separated. Anyway, Cey opens the scoring with a redemption smash off Rooker, high into the bleachers, the place goes ape, and it’s 1-0 Blue Guys. Hooton walks Robinson and Oliver to start the 2nd, but Ott and Moreno go out. Taveras singles too hard for Robinson to score, and Rooker whiffs with the bases juiced.
Big waste, because Baker walks to lead the Dodger 2nd and none other than Steve Garvey rips one into the Dodger bullpen and it’s 3-0! Holy crap. And they’re not done. A walk and two singles load the Dodger bases in the 3rd with no one out. Reggie Smith lines one right at Garner who steps on third and nearly turns a triple play. Baker grounds out and that’s that.
Hooton is tantalizing, giving up a single here, a plunked Stennett there, but no Buc can swing to the resuce all night. Dave Parker never even gets the ball out of the infield. A Lee Lacy walk and Cey triple in the 5th make it 4-0 and finish the scoring, the Penguin going 4-for-4 and a double away from the cycle. Tekulve and Grant Jackson get Pittsburgh out of a few late jams, but the game’s out of reach by then. Hooton’s shutout makes him a bona fide Cy Young threat to Candelaria, sharing his 22-8 record.
Sherman treats us to midnight egg creams at Canter’s Deli later (Sheila opts for a cottage cheese salad and sits in her own booth), and all the place is talking about around us is the Dodgers—now even in the loss column and one game back.
Reuss and Sutton, a pair of underachievers this year, will get the balls for the finale, and hopefully will pack some of their own.
PIT 000 000 000 – 0 5 1
L.A. 120 010 00x – 4 8 0
W-Hooton L-Rooker HRS: Cey, Garvey GWRBI-Garvey
The Buzz Line (two days’ worth)
REDS 6-11-0, at DODGERS 2-5-2
The bad prequel to the main event. Guess you could say the Dodgers were thinking ahead.
PHILLIES 4-6-1, at CUBS 2-9-0
Chicago seems to have this one in the bag, up 2-1 in the 9th with Sutter pitching, but nothing is certain for the Cubbies. Hebner walks, McCarver singles, and Jay Johnstone, who butchered a ball earlier to bring in the go-ahead Cub run, bombs one onto Sheffield for the ball game and the Phils are still very alive.
at WHITE SOX 7-9-1, ORIOLES 3-8-0
Better than yesterday’s embarrassment, but a Bird loss is still a loss. Rudy May has only one bad inning, but it’s a killer, a single-walk-single-walk-walk-double combo in the 1st for five White Sox runs and pretty much all she wrote.
EXPOS 15-17-1, at CUBS 3-8-2
The battle for last place kicks off with the Cubbies getting their faces kicked in. Rogers gets the CG, Carter and Valentine go yard, and this may sound strange, but Ray Burris started for Chicago. He’s 2-19, folks.
PHILLIES 7-12-0, CARDS 2-9-0
A valiant try by the Redbirds comes to a sad end, as Underwood and three relievers get blown out early, and Carlton finally gets his 19th win. Still, it was an exciting drive by St. Louis, who have the triples leader in Templeton (26), the doubles leader in Hernandez (56), and the hit leader in Templeton (244). And they ended up 15-7 against the Phillies.
REDS 3-7-0, at ASTROS 0-4-0
A masterful 20th win for Seaver. Two Astro singles in the 2nd, a single and double in the 9th, and 21 straight retired in the middle. Nope, Cincy’s far from done and after tomorrow get the Pirates and Phillies head to head the rest of the way.
at ROYALS 7-15-1, INDIANS 4-6-0
How you win a pennant: beat the teams you’re supposed to beat. Pattin spins a gem for eight innings before Blanks takes him deep in the 9th to make it interesting, while K.C. jumps all over Bibby, McRae with two singles and a double and everyone in the lineup reaching base.
at WHITE SOX 14-15-1, YANKEES 5-12-0
How you don’t win shit: get hammered by teams you’re supposed to dominate. Torrez faces 20 guys and 11 of them get on base. Lyle relieves him with the bases loaded in the 4th and serves up a grand slam to Zisk. (Rivers turns another out into another double to get that rally started.) The Yanks put runners all over the map against Barrios and for the most part leave them there. An absolutely wretched performance, in a series of far too many.
at RANGERS 3-9-1, RED SOX 2-8-2 (12 innings)
Well, Boston finally gets an outing from Don Aase that doesn’t suck, but now they can’t hit the ball. Dock Ellis gets them to trip into four DPs, and they waste a leadoff triple by Lynn and no-out double by Evans after Rice gives them a brief lead in the 12th with a solo bleacher dinger. Bottom of the 12th, Beniquez doubles, Bevacqua pinch-hits a single to get him to third. Against Campbell, Wills ties it with a single, Burleson boots a DP ball for his second error, and with two gone, Hargrove plants one in the gap for the fierce Texas win.
ORIOLES 4-7-1, at TWINS 0-6-0
Palmer remembers how to pitch and whitewashes the Twinks for his fourth shutout of the year. Even Carew is helpless, going zip-for-4 and dropping to .396.
TWEETCAST ANNOUNCED! No post on New Year’s Eve, but I will be reporting the last regular season Pirates/Dodgers game this Sunday night, January 2nd, in a Live Tweetcast right here, starting at 10 p.m. pacific time, 7 eastern. If y’all can tear yourselves away from the Rams-Seahawks Mediocrity Bowl, it should be ten tons of fun.
American League through Tuesday, September 16
National League through Tuesday, September 16