The Dodgers had a very solid bullpen in 1988, one that led the National League in ERA, strikeouts, wins, and saves. But the team lacked a second left-handed relief pitcher outside of Jesse Orosco. That changed after a late season trade that brought Ricky Horton.
How acquired: The Dodgers acquired Horton on Aug. 30 from the White Sox for pitcher Shawn Hillegas. Horton gave the Dodgers another left-hander in preparation for their pending NLCS matchup against the Mets, who had left-handed hitters Darryl Strawberry and Keith Hernandez in the middle of their lineup.
"It gives you the advantage of turning their lineup around when you bring in the left-handed reliever. Then, when they bring up right-handed pinch-hitters, you bring in your right-handed stopper," starting pitcher Orel Hershiser told Sam McManis of the Los Angeles Times. "If we go against the Mets, Hernandez and Strawberry are the keys to their lineup. Now, this gives us three lefties in the bullpen--Orosco, Horton, and there's nothing in stone saying (John) Tudor can't pitch to a batter in relief, if we need him."
Prior MLB experience: Horton was a fourth round pick of the Cardinals in 1980 and pitched for them for four years. From 1984-1987 Horton was 24-12 with a 3.17 ERA with St. Louis in 195 games, including 36 starts. He had 239 strikeouts and 141 walks in 440⅔ innings as a Cardinal.
1988 age: 28
1988 stats: Horton began the year with the White Sox after getting traded with Lance Johnson for Jose DeLeon, who was traded straight up by the Pirates for Bobby Bonilla two years earlier. Horton was 6-10 with a 4.86 ERA with Chicago. He began the year as a starter, but after nine starts he moved to the bullpen. At the time of the trade to the Dodgers, Horton told the Times of his time in Chicago, "Sometimes, they'd use me for one hitter; sometimes for four innings."
After just 28 strikeouts and 36 walks in 109⅓ innings with the White Sox, Horton pitched 12 innings in nine games with the Dodgers, and was 1-1 with a 5.00 ERA with eight strikeouts and two walks. Horton wasn't particularly effective in the regular season for the Dodgers, as left-handed batters hit .333/.350/.444 (6-for-18 with two doubles) against him, and Horton allowed 10 of 17 inherited runners to score.
Regular season game of the year: Horton recorded an out with two runners on in the fifth inning on Sept. 26, a win in San Diego that clinched the National League West for the Dodgers. But Horton's best game as a Dodger came two days earlier at Candlestick Park. On Sept. 24 in San Francisco, Horton struck out three Giants in two scoreless innings and picked up his only victory with Los Angeles.
NLCS performance: Horton was much more effective for the Dodgers against the Mets, as he pitched 4⅓ scoreless innings in four games, appearing in Games 3-6. Horton did allow a pair of inherited runners to score in the eighth inning of Game 3, the final two tallies of a five-run inning that turned a 4-3 lead into an 8-4 loss and a suspended pitcher in Jay Howell.
The Dodgers trailed 2-1 to the Mets and their only two losses were games started by Orel Hershiser. The Dodgers led both games when Hershiser handed the ball to the bullpen, 2-0 in the ninth inning in Game 1 and 4-3 in the eighth inning in Game 3.
World Series performance: Horton was on the World Series roster, but against an Athletics lineup featuring right-handed bats Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Carney Lansford, Dave Henderson, Don Baylor, and Terry Steinbach the Dodgers didn't use either Horton or fellow southpaw Jesse Orosco. The only appearance in the World Series by a Dodgers left-handed pitcher came from John Tudor, who pitched 1⅓ innings to start Game 3 before walking off the mound with an elbow injury.
Post-1988 playing career: Horton put up a 5.06 ERA in 23 games in 1989 before getting released in July. Four days later Horton returned to St. Louis and he went 1-4 with a 4.83 ERA in 43 games, including eight starts, with the Cardinals in 1989-1990. He was released by the Cardinals in July 1990, and finished his career with minor league stints for the Brewers in 1990 and Indians in 1991.
Where he is now: Horton in 2013 will enter his 10th season as a television play-by-play announcer and analyst for Cardinals games on Fox Sports Midwest.