For the first five months of the season, rightfielder Shawn Green
was the poster boy for what was wrong with the all-pitch, no-hit
Dodgers. A two-time All-Star making $15 million a year, Green had
just 12 homers and 61 RBIs entering September, and despite having
baseball's best pitching staff, Los Angeles seemed like a long
shot to make the postseason.
But after sweeping the Padres last weekend, the Dodgers were very
much in the playoff race, trailing the Marlins by 2 1/2 games for
the National League wild card. A major reason was the resurgence
of Green, who had hit .333 with five homers and 14 RBIs over his
last nine games through Sunday.
Many L.A. fans had wondered all season if Green was hurt, and on
Sept. 1 he said that a right-shoulder injury (an MRI on Aug. 19
revealed bursitis and fraying of the posterior and inferior
labrum) has bothered him since spring training and prevented him
from finishing his swing properly. "It's not like it's
excruciating pain every day, but it is there," says Green, who
receives regular treatment for the injury.
Though his power numbers were down from 42 homers and 114 RBIs
last year, he was batting .274 and led the NL with 46 doubles at
week's end. "He has gotten a lot of grief for not putting up the
home run numbers this year, but he didn't say a thing and kept
battling," says reliever Paul Quantrill, who also played with
Green in Toronto. "A lot of guys might tuck their tail between
their legs and say, 'I am not playing today.' But he didn't do
that, and you have to respect that."
Third baseman Adrian Beltre, whom Los Angeles had tried to trade
earlier in the season, had also heated up, batting .431 over a
stretch beginning on Sept. 1 when the Dodgers went 8-4. During
that span L.A. hit .271 and scored 4.9 runs per game. "What we
have done of late resembles what we thought we were capable of
offensively way back in spring training," says manager Jim Tracy.
"All of sudden people are starting to see that this club can be
Green's shoulder may require surgery in the off-season. Though
he's had a trying year, he says, "It has been a rough season for
a lot of guys, but if we are in the playoffs, none of that
History doesn't favor the Dodgers, who were still the
second-worst hitting team in the majors (.244, behind the Tigers'
.236) heading into the last two weeks of the season. Only one
team ranked last in its league in hitting has ever made the
playoffs--the 1906 White Sox. "[But] if we continue to pitch and
get the hits we have been getting lately," says Tracy, "it's
going to go down to the wire."
COLOR PHOTO: V.J. LOVERO (GREEN) Green smacked five homers in nine games and Beltre (inset) hit.431 over two weeks to spark the Dodgers.
COLOR PHOTO: STAN LIU/ICON SMI [See caption above]