LOS ANGELES -- His was a microcosm of the Los Angeles Dodgers' season, until last night, when Kevin Gross turned a forgettable season into an unforgettable one. He pitched a no-hitter.
His victims were the San Francisco Giants, defeated 2-0 before 25,561 fans at Dodger Stadium, nearly all of whom uncharacteristically were there at the end.
It was the first no-hitter in the major leagues this year and the first since three Atlanta pitchers combined to no-hit San Diego last Sept. 11. It was the eighth no-hitter in Los Angeles Dodgers' history and the first since Fernando Valenzuela threw one June 29, 1990.
"I haven't been like this since high school," an emotional Gross said. "It brought tears to my eyes, no doubt about it. It's been an uphill battle all year, as far as getting wins."
The victory, only his sixth in 18 decisions for a team 22 games out of first in the National League West, ironically was saved in the the eighth inning by beleaguered shortstop Jose Offerman, who has committed 32 errors this year. Robby Thompson opened the inning with a line drive on which Offerman made a leaping backhanded catch.
"I don't know how I got it," Offerman said. "The only thing I do is jump, and then I got it. I catch the ball at the last moment."
Gross, 31, likely was not alone in deducing that the no-hitter was gone at that moment, when the ball appeared headed for the outfield.
"I thought it was a base hit," he said. "Then I looked up and Offerman made that great catch. He looked at me and said, 'We're going to get it.' "
Otherwise, the Giants never so much as flirted with a hit off Gross, who struck out six and walked only two, Cory Snyder and Matt Williams, in the second inning. Williams was erased on a double play. Gross also hit a batter, pinch-hitter Mark Leonard, to open the ninth inning.
The next hitter, pinch-hitter Greg Litton, bounced one just to the shortstop side of second, and Offerman made another quality play, forcing pinch-runner Billy Swift at second for the first out of the inning.
Mike Felder flied to left for the second out of the ninth. With the crowd on its feet, Gross then retired Willie McGee on another fly to left, after which he was swarmed by his teammates.
"Tonight, he had command of everything," said his catcher, Mike Scioscia. "He's got a great arm, obviously, and this can be the result when he's on. He had command of every pitch, and really, it was easy."
Only half the ingredients required for a no-hitter were brought into this game. The Giants' offense has taken a hiatus. They had just 29 hits in their previous five games, over which they were batting .177. They were hitting just .129 in this series, though they had won the first three games, with only 13 hits.
So that part fit the profile of a potential low-hit game. But Gross entered the game having lost three straight decisions, and he was without a victory since July 12. Only 10 days earlier, Gross had given up four hits and five runs in 1 1/3 innings.
"I've always liked the guy," said Giants manager Roger Craig. "He should have a better record, because he has great stuff."
Gross had previously pitched two shutouts, one a three-hitter in which he struck out 13 batters against Montreal on May 12. He has had three three-hitters in a 10-year career that otherwise has been undistinguished. His career record is 96-113.
Rookie Eric Karros provided the only run required with a second-inning home run to left, his 17th.