In chess, a grand master will sometimes sacrifice a valuable piece at the start of a game to gain what is called a positional advantage. When a similar sacrifice is made in crucial midgame play, it is called suicide.

Pretty soon, nobody calls you grand-master anymore and your friends worry about you a lot.

This World Series has seen twodaring pitching selections - call them gambits - by Billy Martin and Tom Lasorda.

Many of baseball's grandstand masters here are saying that Martin's gambit - starting Catfish Hunter in Game 2 - was brilliant and successful, even though Hunter lost.

Those same devotees of strategy say that Lasorda's gambit - starting Doug Rau in Game 4 - stupid.

Martin, in effect, played for positional advantage. He sacrificed a game, evening the series, 1-1, for the sake of getting his pitching staff in shape for the rest of the hostilities.

Today, Lasorda started Rau. The parallels with Hunter's outing are striking. Catfish had not pitched since Sept. 10, nor won in seven weeks. Rau had not started since Sept. 27 and finished the season in a 1-5 slump.

The difference is that Rau started with the Dodgers trailing, two games to one. His losing effort today gives the Dodgers no better than a 1-in-10 chance for a comeback.

Martin had few alternatives. He could have depleted his bullpen by starting Dick Tidrow, or he could have started Ed Figueroa or Mike Torrez without sufficient rest.

Ironically, Lasorda had the simplest and most logical of alternatives - simply go the entire Series with a three-man rotation of Den Sutton. Burt Hooton andTommy John. All have proved they can pitch well with three days rest.