The Dodgers won again today and you won't believe how. They did it with a senior citizen hitter. They did it with a suggestion from a guy who shouldn't have been there. They did it with a star pitcher who volunteered to go to the bullpen. They did it with an outfielder who wanted to hurt his manager real bad. And they did it with an eighth-inning home run by a penguin who can barely walk, let alone fly
Dodgers 4, Houston 3.
Again a one-run victory, the Dodgers' third straight in this series with the poor Astros.
And now these teams play one more time, M)nday afternoon, in a playoff for the National League West championship. Dave Goltz (7-10) will pitch for the Dodgers against Joe Niekro (19-12) in the nationally televised (WJLA-TV-7) 4 p.m. EDT game.
"I still don't believe anybody can beat us four straight," said Joe Morgan the heart of the Astros.
Joe must not have been paying attention lately, because these Dodgers have won three in a row, not on their own muscle, but with lots of help from the Astros, who again today committed a blunder that provided the single run L.A. needed to win.
Houston third baseman Enos Cabell, the man with the iron glove, clanged away Steve Garvey's easy ground ball to begin the eighth.Houston, once on top, 3-0, still led 3-2, but Cabell's 28th error of the year was an ominous signal. The Astros gave away a game-turning run both Friday and Saturday when they failed to make elementary fielding plays.
Cabell's clunker brought up the Penguin, Ron Cey, so named because he walks funny. He walks funnier than ever right now, what with a pulled hamstring in his left leg. With the count 3-2, ace reliever Frank LaCorte delivered a fast ball and Cey fouled one off his left ankle.
The trainer rushed out. People conferred. Cey grimaced and limped. Later he would show off the baseball's seam marks branded in his swollen purple ankle.Would the L.A. Manager, Tom Lasorda, pinch hit for the semi-ambulatory Cey?
"If Lasorda had shot me with a gun right there at the plate, that's the only way he could hit for me," Cey snapped.
Cey fouled away two more fast balls.
Then came one up and over the plate.
It sailed up and over the 385-foot sign in left center, Cey's 28th homer of a season that seemed done for the Dodgers a week ago when they limped and ached through a 13-game stretch in which they won only six games. Meanwhile, the Astros would go on a seven-out-of-eight winning streak that gave them a three-game lead coming into Dodger Stadium.
What, Houston worry?
Three up with three to play, the Astros had to worry only about something really weird happening.
Something really weird happened today.
In the seventh inning, with Houston ahead, 3-1, the Dodgers had men on first and second against Houston's best relief pitcher, Joe Sambito.
A pinch hitter for the pitcher.
The pinch hitter is Manny Mota.
Manny Mota is a Dodger coach. He stands at first base during games. He is 42 years old. Put on the roster when a kid got hurt six weeks ago, Mota had batted only six times this season. Two hits. He could always hit. He had the record for pinch hits: 149. "Manny could get wood on a bullet," Jim Murray once wrote.
But could he hit Joe Sambito? Not last month, he couldn't. Before today's game, Mota passed Sambito. "Joe, do not embarrass me today the way you did last time. Please?" And Mota smiled brightly.
Mota, facing this kid with the game and the season on the line, slashed a single to right, scoring a run to make it 3-2.
Even before Ron Cey finished his curtain call to the uncommonly rambunctious 54,017 fans here -- Laidback Land has become Philly-by-the-Ocean -- the injured Dodger right fielder Reggie Smith, in street clothes and in the dugout against league regulations, had a bright idea. s
"I wondered if we had a starting pitcher who could get one out if we needed it in the ninth," Smith said.
Sutton picks up the story. "So Reggie turns to me and says, 'Hey, old-timer, can you get one man out in the ninth?' I said sure. Next thing I know, Reggie is hollering at Lasorda, saying, 'Tommy, Tommy, the old timer here says he can get one man out.' Tommy tells me to get down to the bullpen. I figure he's kidding, that I'm going out there for 15th inning insurance. Ten minutes later, I'm in the game."
More about Sutton in a minute.
Now, Jay Johnstone.
He's in right field for the Dodgers after pinch hitting in the seventh. Except that Lasorda, managing too much, wants to replace hiiim in the ninth with what he thinks is a better defensive man. Hearing Lasorda's plan to take him out of this big game, Johnstone did this: He screamed a lot, he said a naughty word or tow and he wanted to hurt Lasorda's face real bad. By one man's count, it took eight Dodgers to keep Johnstone away from Lasorda.
And what happens to the first Astro in the ninth?
Jeff Leonard lofts a high fly ball foul down the right field line.
And Jonnstone, running 100 feet, leaps and crashes into the bleacher rail to make a miracle catch.
But a pair of singles around a fielder's choice gave the Astors men on first and third with two out.
The Dodger bench, of course, has been an outdoor lunatic asylum for two innings now. Reggie Smith managing in his civvies. Jay Johnstone with his dukes up. And now Lasorda comes out to the mound, where he tells the assembled Dodgers, "I'm bringing in Sutton."
To which Davey Lopes said, "You're bringing in who?"
On Sutton's second pitch, pinch hitter Denny Walling grounded out to Lopes.
In other games, Jerry White's three-run homer with two out in the bottom of the 10th inning gave the Montreal Expos a come-from-behind 8-7 victory over the playoff-bound Philadelphia Phillies.
In San Francisco, the Padres defeated the Giants, 7-3. Following the game it was announced by Padres General Manager Jack McKeon that Manager Jerry Coleman had been fired. Coleman will resume broadcasting Padre games next season.
In other action, Bill Buckner won the National League batting title despite going hitless in the Cubs' 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh. Buckner ended the season hitting .324. He won the title when St. Louis' Keith Hernandez went only one-for-four in the Cards' 3-2 win over the New York Mets. Hernandez batted .321 for the year. Cincinnati downed Atlanta, 1-0, in the other leauge finale.