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Just so there's no misunderstanding, the Dodgers are in the National League West race—albeit as longshots—because the Reds let them into it. Still, the fact that Los Angeles was only five games back after the weekend is a tribute to the Dodgers' organization, their manager and their veteran players.
Remember, L.A. lost its ace pitcher, Orel Hershiser, to an injury in late April, and another starter, Tim Belcher, has been lost to the team since mid-August. Remember, too, that against Philadelphia on Aug. 21, the Dodgers blew an eight-run lead in the ninth inning that could have moved them to within 5� games of Cincinnati, but they didn't pack it in for the season. Los Angeles probably won't make the playoffs, but it has shown a lot of heart and guts.
Leading the way has been first baseman Eddie Murray, who seems reborn following his unhappy final three years in Baltimore and a so-so .247 season with L.A. in 1989. At week's end Murray was hitting .326 and closing in on Willie McGee's league-leading .335. Should Murray win his first batting crown, he would become the fifth player in this century to lead a league in the Triple Crown categories-batting, homers (22 with the Orioles in strike-shortened '81) and RBIs (78, also in '81)—but not all in the same year. The four who have accomplished that feat are Hall of Famers: Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, Johnny Mize and Hank Aaron. One of the game's best pennant-race players during his 12 years with Baltimore, Murray, who also had 25 homers and 91 RBIs through Sunday, came to Los Angeles in a steal of a deal. L.A. shipped infielder Juan Bell and pitchers Brian Holton and Ken Howell to the Orioles for Murray.
The Dodgers also have to be pleased with the 1989 deal �that sent pitcher Tim Leary and infielder Mariano Duncan to Cincinnati for outfielder Kal Daniels. With 26 home runs and 89 RBIs at week's end, Daniels is having his best season ever. And Ramon Martinez (19-6, 3.04 ERA and a league-high 216 strikeouts) has emerged as a Cy Young candidate.
Manager Tommy Lasorda deserves a great deal of credit for not letting the Dodgers quit when things looked bleak. Through Sunday, L.A. was 43-28 since the All-Star break, while the Reds were 37-37. "The pressure is all on them [the Reds] now," says outfielder Kirk Gibson. "If we take this thing, the story will be how they blew it, not how we won it."
Says Daniels of his former teammates, "Nothing they're doing surprises me. In my four years there [1986 through '89], September was always the worst month. No one ever knew why." As of Sunday, Cincinnati was 12-11 this month.
The Reds will in all likelihood hold on, but they certainly won't be charging into the playoffs. Jack Armstrong and Rick Mahler have struggled with injuries, and Cincinnati is down to a four-man rotation: Tom Browning, Danny Jackson, Norm Charlton and Jose Rijo. In his five most recent starts, Browning was 1-3 with an 8.28 ERA. In his last five starts, Jackson was 1-4 with a 5.76. Since Charlton moved into the starting rotation in July, the bullpen has been weakened. In short, the Reds need to regroup before the playoffs, but first they have to get by the Dodgers.
A YEAR TO FORGET
The disastrous season of Padre outfielder Tony Gwynn ended on Sept. 16, when he broke a finger on his right hand while trying to make a catch against the rightfield wall in Atlanta. He was hitting .309 at the time, 23 points below his career average. But that's the least of Gwynn's troubles. He's so angry with his teammates, he won't return to the clubhouse this year, saying, "I don't want to be around those——." He says he won't comment further until 1991.