What should have been a lopsided pitching matchup between a Los Angeles veteran and a recent St Louis minor league call-up became one of the most surprisingly hard-fought duels of the SP78 season, won in dramatic fashion when Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey lifted a long drive to right that scored Davey Lopes from third on a sacrifice fly, barely beating the throw from utility outfielder Dane Iorg for the 1-0 LA win.
With Burt Hooton and his 10-4 record slated to start on the mound for the Dodgers in his home park, Cardinals manager Ken Boyer decided to take a chance on Rob Dressler, a recent arrival from the Springfield Redbirds of the American Association and his newly-minted fifth starter in the rotation. With the worst record in the National League, there wasn’t much for the Cardinals to lose from that spur-of-the-moment decision.
Except the game, perhaps. But the Cards didn’t make it easy for the Dodgers, who battled each other for eight scoreless innings, with Hooton and Dressler both pitching as if their lives were at stake, mowing down opposing batters like men possessed. The final hit tally was seven, and that was a total for both teams: St Louis was able to connect for four off Hooton, while LA could muster just three off the confounding Dressler.
If anything, Hooton seemed the more shaky of the two, surviving a bases-loaded scare in the sixth and, more importantly, a critical run-scoring opportunity in the eighth; with two out, Cards shortstop Garry Templeton walked, then advanced to second when Hooton’s pickoff throw sailed wide of Garvey at first. Templeton then stole third, and with Lou Brock at the plate, manager Boyer called for the suicide squeeze, a gutsy move that, coupled with Templeton’s great jump off the bag at third, would’ve given the Cards a 1-0 lead…had Brock made contact. Instead, he missed the bunt, and Templeton was easily snuffed at home by catcher Joe Ferguson for the inning’s third out.
The Dodgers’ critical moment came in the last of the ninth, when Lopes walked with one out. LA manager Tommy Lasorda took a gamble of his own and, with the speedy Lopes on base, signaled for the hit-and-run, which was a success: Lopes advanced to third on Bill Russell’s sharp single to center, and the question now was, with Garvey at the plate, would the Cardinal infield make the logical move and play in, to cut off the run at home, or play deep and hope for the double play?
It didn’t matter, one way or the other; Garvey jumped on Dressler’s first pitch and lifted it high to Dane Iorg—subbing for a stronger-armed Jerry Morales—in right field, allowing Lopes to tag and scamper home just ahead of Iorg’s desperate throw, claiming victory for LA and sending the sellout home crowd into a delirium.
The win allowed the Dodgers to assume sole possession of first place in the NL West, a full game ahead of the Padres, who’d lost to the Cubs earlier in the evening. For the hard-luck Cards, it was their second disheartening loss in a row to the Dodgers, continuing their rapid descent deeper and deeper into the NL East cellar.
For a full game summary and a photo of the game site, click here.