Two distinct options exist on how to view this evening's 5-4 Los Angeles Dodger victory over the New York Yankees in the third game of the World Series.
Those here in a Dodger Stadium record crowd of 56,236 have every right to believe that their heroes, particularly their child of burgeoning myth, Fernando Valenzuela, performed nobly in reviving themselves in the best-of-seven set they now trail, two games to one.
Valenzuela spun a valorous, 145-pitch complete game on a night when he had as little stuff and as little control as ever in his 20 years.
Los Angeles was hit by two earthquakes earlier today, a 4.5 and a 5.0 on the Richter Scale. However, on a baseball scale of guts and glory, Valenzuela was a 10 tonight, not only for surviving more trouble than he usually sees in a major league game, but for doing it in his Series debut.
Only once before in his big-league career had Valenzuela allowed nine hits. Never had he given seven walks. Never had he allowed so many ringing extra-base hits to all corners of Dodger Stadium and over its walls: a double and homer each by Rick Cerone and Bob Watson.
In short, Valenzuela never dreamed he'd see the day that 16 Yanks would reach base in the first eight innings, or when he'd have to work out of six innings in which men reached scoring position, only to stay there.
Yes, only the greatest of pitchers can win a Series game at their worst. After the incredible poise and refusal to quit that he showed tonight, the day may well come when Valenzuela will be fairly compared with the man who threw out the first ball tonight -- Sandy Koufax.
"I did not feel the earthquakes today," said Valenzuela after the game. "I thought they were tonight. Things were shaking around me all night."
"This was one of the guttiest performances I've ever seen," said L.A. Manager Tommy Lsorda, who will pitch Bob Welch against New York's Rick Reuschel in Game 4 Saturday at 4:05 p.m. (EST).
"Fernando was like a sharp poker player bluffing his way through a lot of bad hands. To tell the truth, he had almost nothin' until the ninth inning. Then he closed the show, 1-2-3. He's the finest closer I've ever seen."
Angelenos cheered loudly Ron Cey's three-run homer in the first inning off loser Dave Righetti, who lasted only two innings. The American League batted only .196 against the left-handed rookie this season; the Dodgers hit him hard as Davey Lopes' double, Bill Russell's bunt hit and Cey's 400-foot, two-out homer gave the home club three runs before Righetti got three outs.
Just as important, Cey made as good a defensive play as he is capable, with two on and none out in the eighth inning, The Penguin saved Valenzuela from his last and most dangerous jam by diving a yard into foul territory to grab Bobby Murcer's line-drive foul bunt, then scrambling to his feet to double Larry Milbourne off first.
The good folks here will also like the RBI double by Pedro Guerrero that tied the game, 4-4, in the fifth when the slumping Dodger partially redeemed his nigthmare postseason by chopping a grounder over third base in a two-on, none-out bunt situation.
Dodger fans probably will even like the humble bases-loaded, none-out, ground-into-double-play by Mike Scioscia that killed a big LA rally but managed to nudge home the winning run in that fifth inning.
All that is to the Dodgers' credit.
But the other half of the truth this balmy evening in the shadow of the San Gabriel Mountains is that the Yankees did not play well. In fact, the Dodgers won because the Yankees stunk out the joint.
Hard-hearted New York folks -- like owner George Steinbrenner -- will no doubt say that, on this night when neither Reggie Jackson nor Graig Nettles played, the Yankees beat themselves with nightmarish base-running in the eighth inning, dubious managing throughout by Bob Lemon, nonexistent clutch hitting and one crucial made-for-Nettles play that Aurelio Rodriguez couldn't make.
First horrors first.
In the eighth, with two on and no outs, Lemon chose to send Murcer, with one career Series at bat, to bat to bunt rather than let Jackson go up and swing away like Mr. October. "Where was Reggie?" the baseball world must ask.
It was bad enough that Murcer, no great shakes as a bunter, smacked the ball where Cey had a chance to make a nose-into-the-dirt diving grab; however, what made the play memorable was the sight of Milbourne getting doubled off first base by 10 feet on a foul bunt.
Never has a fellow turned back into a Seattle Mariner so fast.
"The biggest play of the game was Milbourne wandering," said Cey. "You can't give Fernando that much help and think you'll get to him."
Finally, to end the inning, Willie Randolph hit what could have been an infield chop-hit to third. Except that Rodriguez ran directly into Cey's arms for the last out. Instead of first-and-third, the Yanks were out of the inning.
Another man who won't be in Steinbrenner's good graces is Lemon, and not just for keeping Jackson on the pine. Lemon has never before this Series managed a real baseball game -- that's to say, one without the automatic-pilot, DH-style of the American League managing.
Twice, in the third and fifth innings, Valenzuela was on the ropes with two men on and two outs. Twice, Lemon let his incompetent pitchers hit. Twice, they struck out on three pitches. Twice, those pitchers went back to the mound in the next inning and never retired another batter. f galcmp
With the longest and best bullpen in baseball, where were the Yankees' pinch hitters? Why does Steinbrenner spend all those millions to put quality players on his bench if they aren't going to be used?
Yankees sins, to be honest, were without number tonight.
When Valenzuela walked two of the game's first three men, Lou Piniella freed him with a double-play grounder. Watson opened the fifth with a double. But Cerone, who had doubled off the left field railing in the second and scored on a Milbourne single, then homered with Piniella aboard in the third, tried to go deep again. Instead, he struck out, failing to advance the runner. Watson died.
Perhaps all the Yankees' bad fortune coagulated in the fifth as the Dodgers scored twice to reverse a 4-3 deficit. After Garvey singled and Cey walked, Guerrero, five for 44 in postseason, stepped up. The only thing he's done worse than hit in recent days is attempt to bunt. So, Lasorda let him get cute and swing.
Guerrero, hacking at a pitch that almost hit him, shattered his bat with a high chop over third. It's hard to believe that Nettles wouldn't have stopped the ugly thing, landed on third base for one out and pegged to second for a double play. Maybe even a triple play.
Rodriguez, still a good fielder, although bench-rusty, leaped and missed the ball by inches. Those inches were eventually worth two runs.
Even the bizarre double play that scored the winning run in that inning was a double-edged Dodger blessing. As Yeager batted, Reggie Smith was on deck to hit for Valenzuela who, through five miserable innings had allowed 13 runners. Almost any Yeager outcome would have brought up Smith. Only a double play, reducing the big-inning chances, or perhaps a grand slam homer, also clearing the bases, would have kept Valenzuela in.
"Fernando was very, very close to coming out," said Lasorda.
But to the Yankees' disgust, Valenzuela did not leave. He just leavened, getting better as he grew more exhausted. Finally, in the ninth with two outs, Valenzuela was so beaten, exhausted and out of breath that he turned Piniella inside out for a game-ending strikeout.
"I thought about taking Fernando out many times," said Lasorda.
Why didn't he?
Lasorda shrugged. Sometimes it's not smart to be too smart. Just go with the flow, don't try to explain it. "This is the Year of Fernando," he said.