CHICAGO - During Orel Hershiser's rehabilitation, many thought it would take a miracle for him to win another baseball game for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Sure enough, it nearly did, as Hershiser had to use his bat to beat the Chicago Cubs yesterday.
Hershiser hit two line-drive singles and scored two runs, giving the Dodgers a 6-3 victory over the Cubs.
"Congratulations Orel, you hit the ball great and you ran the bases great," Coach Joe Amalfitano said afterward, pumping Hershiser's hand. "And, oh, yeah, I guess you also pitched."
Oh, yeah. Hershiser pitched like a man who had not won a game in 416 days, a man who had been sitting precariously on 99 career victories since April 19, 1990.
He gave up two runs and six hits in seven innings while throwing 90 pitches. It was the most innings and pitches for him in three starts since coming back from a 13-month layoff because of reconstructive shoulder surgery.
"For right now, I think you can say Orel is back," Hershiser said softly after collecting a dozen game balls to commemorate his 100th career victory.
"If I never win another game in the big leagues, I can now say that it has all been worth it."
For his teammates, it was worth it simply to see him hit, which he has done at an incredible pace since his return. In six at-bats, he has five hits for an .833 average.
It is even stranger that his rehabilitation did not include batting practice.
Hershiser did not swing a bat at a ball for more than a year. He finally stepped into the batters' box one week before his first start.
With the Dodgers trailing 2-0 in the fifth inning, and Alfredo Griffin on first base, Hershiser faked a bunt, pulled back the bat and chopped the ball to center field for a single.
Both he and Griffin eventually scored on a grounder by Brett Butler and a single by Juan Samuel to tie the score.
In the seventh inning, with Griffin on first, Hershiser again faked a bunt, then hit to center field. The hit moved Griffin to third base. Griffin then scored the tie-breaking run on an infield single by Butler, and Hershiser scored the eventual winning run on a wild pitch by Danny Jackson.