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Dodger pitchers held Murphy and Horner hitless in both games. Afterward, some of the Braves were sitting around the clubhouse, talkin' Greek tragedy. "The gods would get angry if you were too good," said John Holland, the assistant equipment manager. "Ever hear of hubris, Dale?" Murphy shook his head.
On Saturday, before 46,694 fans, almost none of whom came to see Fernando Valenzuela pitch, the Dodgers won 3-0. Valenzuela gave up only six hits in his best game of the season. The Braves looked as if they were swinging the little giveaway bats on this Bat Day. It was also Family Day for the players, and as the little people in Murphy, Horner, Hubbard and Washington uniforms ran around, the impression was that the Braves were a very young team.
The mood was a touch somber in the Braves clubhouse after the loss. "If we're nine games [actually seven] ahead and lose, and feel bad about it, there's something wrong," said Torre. "Everybody's making too big a deal about this," said Horner. "We sweep the Padres, and they were writing off the other teams. We lose three, and they're trying to write us off. They have to go a ways to get us."
Maybe so, but it was less of a ways after Sunday's game. The Braves got off to a spectacular start with First Baseman Chris Chambliss' grand-slam homer in the first off Joe Beckwith, but Los Angeles pecked away against Niekro, tying the score 4-4 in the fifth. Then Dusty Baker and Pedro Guerrero hit back-to-back homers off Carlos Diaz, the Mad Hawaiian, to lead off the seventh. Baker added a two-run homer in the eighth, the 30th hit in the eight games at the stadium last week. L.A. won 9-4.
If the Dodgers do catch the Braves, and they play them four times this week in L.A., Sunday's game might serve as a microcosm of the season. The day did underscore the weakness of the Braves' pitching staff and the importance of Murphy and Horner to the offense. Dodger pitchers held them to three singles in 30 at bats in the series; Murphy, however, still led the league with 28 home runs and 74 RBIs, and was batting .298. So great was the woe that the Braves' broadcaster, Skip Caray, said on WTBS, "Paranoia is running rampant here." And to think that just the other day a radio interviewer was asking Torre to analyze the possibility of an Atlanta-Milwaukee World Series. In 48 hours, the Braves had gone from Mount Olympus to Hades.
"I don't think we can find a silver lining in this," said Murphy. "We've got to come back and create one. There's still a lot of baseball left."