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Today in Dodgers history: Orel Hershiser extends streak to 31 innings

The Dodgers ace won his career-high 21st game with his second win over the Braves in 10 days. Against Atlanta on the season, Hershiser is 5-0 with a 1.29 ERA in five starts.

Richard Mackson-US PRESSWIRE

Dodgers ace Orel Hershiser pitched his third consecutive shutout on Sept. 14, 1988 and thanks to the bat of Mike Marshall he picked up his 21st victory of the season with a 1-0 win over the Braves. Hershiser ran his scoreless streak to 31 consecutive innings, more than halfway toward Don Drysdale's major league record 58 consecutive scoreless innings in 1968.

Hershiser told Ross Newhan of the Los Angeles Times that Drysdale's record was out of his reach:

"That first came up in '85 when I had 30-some in a row," he said. "In my view, (the Drysdale record is) an unbelievable feat, one of the records that may not be broken.

"It's hard enough to throw a shutout, and he threw six and then some. I don't know if I have enough innings left in the season and enough pitches left in my arm to do it.

"But I'll settle for three more (the number of starts he has left). I don't want to give up a run until I have to."

Hershiser's streak of 31 scoreless innings is tied with teammate Fernando Valenzuela for the sixth longest streak by a Dodgers pitcher since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958.

Hershiser is one inning shy of matching his personal best scoreless streak. He had 32 straight scoreless frames in 1984, his first full season.

Two of the three straight shutouts for Hershiser have come against the last-place Braves, but on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium Rick Mahler was matching Hershiser pitch for pitch through eight innings.

Kirk Gibson opened the bottom of the ninth with a walk against Mahler and on a hit-and-run play Marshall doubled down the left field line for the game's only run. The win lowered the Dodgers' magic number to 12 to clinch the National League West.

Hershiser, pitching on three days rest for the third time in 1988, retired the first six batters of the game, then Ozzie Virgil and Terry Blocker singled to open the third inning. But Hershiser responded with strikeouts of Mahler and Ron Gant, and got Jeff Blauser to fly to left field to end the threat.

A double by Andres Thomas and an error by first baseman Franklin Stubbs put runners on the corners to open the seventh inning against Hershiser, and an intentional walk loaded the bases with one out. But Mahler and Gant provided a safety valve yet again, with a strikeout and fly out to end the inning.

But the rookie Gant's fly ball was no ordinary fly out. Josh Suchon recalled in his book Miracle Men: Hershiser, Gibson and the Improbable 1988 Dodgers:

On the second pitch, he hung a curveball. As soon as it left Hershiser's hand, he shouted, "No!!!"

Gant lofted a long fly ball to left. Hershiser held his breath. The game, the streak, and the Cy Young Award were on the line. Kirk Gibson went back to the track, to the wall, crashed into the wall ... and made the catch. The streak reached 29.

If this was a day game or mid-summer, Gant would have hit a grand slam, Hershiser thought.

Hershiser's sixth shutout of the season and his sixth consecutive complete game might have been his most impressive, if only for Hershiser being able to keep his concentration on the field, as his wife was pregnant with their second son and scheduled to induce labor the morning of Sept. 15, if the baby didn't come sooner.

So far during the streak, Hershiser has lowered his ERA on the season from 2.90 to 2.54.

Hershiser's streak IP H R ER BB K HBP BF Opponents
Sept. 14 vs. Braves 9 6 0 0 2 8 0 35 .188/.235/.219
Streak to date 31 18 0 0 8 28 0 116 .171/.230/.200