Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and the greatest moment countdown continues
I’m assuming everyone knows how this works by now, so I’m going to drop the explanatory introduction to these. If you need a reminder, click on any of the Nos. 20-25 greatest moments below.
Up next is a run of zeroes.
No. 6: Orel Hershiser’s scoreless innings streak (62 first-place votes, 16,918 points)
From 1984 to 1989, Orel Hershiser was the Dodgers’ best pitcher, and one of the best pitchers in baseball, compiling a 98-64 record with a 2.68 ERA. But he turned in a truly magical season in 1988.
No one expected the Dodgers to contend for the NL West title that season. They were coming off two seasons in which they finished under .500, and were picked by most experts to finish fourth in 1988. But they moved into the division lead on April 9 and were never out of first place after that.
Heading into the final stretch of the season, Hershiser made sure the team stayed in first. He put on a command performance, pitching 59 consecutive scoreless innings and six consecutive shutouts.
“I caught 16 pitchers who won the Cy Young Award and I never caught anyone who pitched like him that year,” Dodgers catcher Rick Dempsey said. “We knew when he was pitching that the game was over.”
The first shutout in the streak was a 3-0 win over the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 5, 1988. The game was notable for the fact Hershiser struck out two-time MVP Dale Murphy four times, the only time in Murphy’s 2,180-game career in which he struck out four times in a game against the same pitcher.
On Sept. 10, Hershiser beat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-0, not only getting his second consecutive shutout, but picking up his 20th victory of the season.
On Sept. 14, the Braves got another chance at him, but fared no better, losing 1-0.
On Sept. 19, it was another 1-0 win, this time against Houston.
“One of the things that helped me get the streak was that the offense wasn’t scoring many runs,” Hershiser said in a 2013 interview. “When your team is winning big, you trade outs for runs a lot, but early in the streak, I couldn’t.”
On Sept. 23, it looked like the streak would end.
In the third inning against San Francisco, Hershiser got into a little trouble. Jose Uribe led off with a single and moved to second on Atlee Hammaker’s infield hit. Brett Butler grounded to second, but the Dodgers were unable to turn the double play, putting runners on first and third with one out.
Ernest Riles came to the plate and hit a grounder to second. Steve Sax fed Alfredo Griffin to force Butler at second, but the throw to first was too late and the run scored.
The streak was over at 42 innings.
Except it wasn’t.
First-base umpire Paul Runge ruled that Butler had drifted too far right of the base on his slide and interfered with Griffin’s throw. He called Riles out. No run scored. Inning over. Streak continues.
“For something like this to happen, Hershiser said, “you have to catch one break.”
Even now, Butler says Runge blew the call.
“That was the only time in 17 years that that’s ever happened to me,” Butler told the Los Angeles Times. “I’ve done it the same way for all those years.”
With the streak at 49 innings, Hershiser made his final start of the season against the San Diego Padres. It looked like the best he could do was tie Drysdale, unless by some miracle the game went into extra innings tied at 0-0. But what were the odds of that happening?
Pretty good, actually.
Hershiser shut the Padres out for nine innings to tie the record, but the Dodgers failed to score against Andy Hawkins, sending the game to extra innings tied at 0-0. One problem, though. Hershiser did not want to go out for the 10th inning. He wanted to go into the record books tied with Drysdale.
“I loved it because he had so much respect for Don Drysdale,” Lasorda said. “That was the thing he was concerned with. He just needed someone to push him a little bit. I told him, ‘Get out there and break it.’ ”
Hershiser pitched a scoreless 10th to break the record, and came out of the game, which the Padres won, 2-1, in 16 innings.
“I felt wonderful for Hershiser,” Vin Scully said. “And I thought we were blessed. I mean, what a set of circumstances to have the man whose record is broken, part of the same group with the man who broke it. That was, to me, kind of a special moment.”
Previous greatest moments
No. 8: Fernandomania
No. 11: Dodgers move to L.A.
No. 15: Dodgers win 1981 World Series
No. 16: Roy Campanella Night
No. 17: Rick Monday’s 1981 NLCS home run
No. 18: Rick Monday saves the flag
No. 19: Winning the 1988 World Series
Watch Orel Hershisher set the scoreless innings streak record by clicking here.