LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are making a silk purse out of a sour year.
The departure of Darryl Strawberry -- which was finalized last week -- could have been a devastating blow to a developing club, but the Dodgers have come away with a never-say-die attitude that has carried them to the top of the National League West standings.
If you need any more proof, look at Friday night's extra-inning victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. They blew a four-run lead in the ninth inning with a series of fundamental lapses that might have been the undoing of a less resilient club.
Manager Tom Lasorda even ran so short on the bench that he had to bring in pitcher Darren Dreifort to pinch hit with two outs and a runner at third in the 10th.
How well are things going? Dreifort smacked a single through the middle off former Orioles reliever Jeff Ballard to move the club six games over .500.
It was Dreifort's first major-league at-bat, but it wasn't the first time he has delivered at the plate. He batted .327 with 22 home runs and 66 RBIs for Wichita State before the Dodgers made him their No. 1 choice last June.
The Cincinnati Reds must be very proud. They were the losers in the lowest-scoring game at Mile High Stadium so far this year, going down 3-2 on Wednesday. Their offense disappeared into thin air, but returned in time to score 14 runs the following afternoon. . . . How about Friday's game in San Diego for an example of the "reverse lock" principle. Cardinals pitcher Bob Tewksbury entered the game with the best record in the National League (8-1). The Padres entered with the worst record (13-34) in the majors. So what happens? The Padres rack up 13 hits in 4 2/3 innings off Tewksbury to score an 8-6 win for struggling Scott Sanderson.
When was the last time you saw two first-place teams pull off a significant deal in the first two months of the season? Atlanta Braves general manager John Schuerholz said he traded Deion Sanders to the Cincinnati Reds for Roberto Kelly to give the club better left-right balance, but there's room to speculate that the Braves wanted to assure that the volatile Sanders would not again become disruptive late in the season. . . . If the Houston Astros release Mitch Williams -- and he seems sure they will -- he claimed on Friday he will take the rest of the season off before deciding whether to retire. Don't bet on it. There are a dozen pitching coaches out there cocky enough to think they could turn him back into a successful reliever. California Angels president Richard Brown and general manager Bill Bavasi took a lot of criticism when the club fired popular manager Buck Rodgers last week, but the team has heated up and taken them off the hook. Despite two weekend losses to Toronto, the Angels are 6-4 since new manager Marcel Lachemann took over and are tied for first in the AL Mess. . . . Somebody knew something. The Orioles and the Texas Rangers fought over Will Clark last winter, even though there was room to wonder if he would hold up well enough physically to justify a five-year deal. The Orioles had their doubts. The Rangers have been rewarded for their confidence. Clark is batting .371 with six home runs and 42 RBIs. Of course, the Rangers lack of confidence in Rafael Palmeiro also has been repaid in kind. . . . If anyone can figure out the Mariners, please write. They dropped to 5-19 on the road with Saturday's loss to Milwaukee.
The Brewers finally broke their 14-game losing streak after future Hall of Famer Robin Yount visited the clubhouse before Friday's game and gave the team a pep talk. Perhaps if he had brought a bat, there might still be hope. . . . David Cone's string of 28 shutout innings came to an end with a bang on Friday, when the New York Yankees scored five runs in the first inning. Cone's tough outing ended a string of solid starts by Kevin Appier, Tom Gordon and Mark Gubicza. The Boston Red Sox are hanging tough, but they did not have a very promising week. Andre Dawson underwent knee surgery for the 10th time in his career and will be lost for about a month. They appear to have offense to burn, but the loss of Dawson and the severe elbow injury suffered by pitcher Frank Viola earlier this month figure to keep the Red Sox out of the playoffs. . . . Former Oriole Todd Frohwirth had hoped to revive his career when he was brought back by the Red Sox a few weeks ago, but it hasn't gone well. Frohwirth took the defeat in Friday's loss to Texas, which dropped his record to 0-1. That might not seem all that bad, but his ERA is 10.50 despite two scoreless innings yesterday.