Mickey Hatcher singled to shallow right field for Los Angeles in the 17th inning off Houston rookie Dave Smith this evening to score Dusty Baker and decide in the Dodgers' favor, 6-5, a marathon game that kept baseball devotees glued to the national telecast for 5 hours 35 minutes of play.

Nolan Ryan, the Astros' multimillion-dollar free-agent signee, labored through 48 balls and 59 strikes, walking five and fanning three, in six innings of pitching -- but, largely on the strength of his own three-run home run in the fourth, stood to win his Houston debut when he left with a 5-4 lead.

The Dodgers scotched that and forced extra innings on Baker's two-out run-scoring double in the ninth. Baker had cracked a second-inning homer off Ryan to start the day's scoring, and his single followed by a sacrifice, ground out and Hatcher's hit in the 17th solved some numerical problems for Dodgers Manager Tommy Lasorda.

"If it had gone any farther, I was gonna put (pitcher) Jerry Reuss in center field because he played the position in high school," said Lasorda, who used 23 of the 25 players on his roster.

Lasorda used two pitchers, Rick Sutcliffe and Burt Hooton, as pinch hitters in his make-do lineup that produced the Dodgers' first victory of the season. Rookie Steve Howe received the credit with five innings of one-hit relief.