Andy Hawkins is seven and zero now, which means he can talk freely about the days when he was a zero. This was about a year ago, when he walked into Manager Dick Williams’ office and asked Williams what his problem was. Williams kept taking Hawkins out of games early.
Williams said “Excuse me.” And then he shut the door and told Hawkins to throw strikes and then he’d think about leaving him in.
“We had a good one that day,” Hawkins recalled after he won his seventh game of the season Tuesday night by beating the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-2.
And so, all is forgotten. The past has passed. The only leftover from before is one of those old yellow and brown Padre hats. Hawkins wore one after Tuesday’s game.
Someone asked him about his record.
“Strange feeling, strange feeling,” he said. “Never been done in this territory before.”
And it’s true, for no Padre has ever had such a start. But Hawkins wasn’t really outstanding Tuesday night, going just five average innings. He had help from Mark Thurmond, who threw four scoreless innings of relief to get the save.
And there was other help, too. Kevin McReynolds hit a three-run homer in the first, after Cardinal starter John Tudor made a costly throwing error trying to start a double play. McReynolds then had to reach for a low, outside pitch, but sent it over the left-field fence.
“I never dreamed it was going out,” said McReynolds, who didn’t think he hit it very hard.
McReynolds has hit safely in nine straight games, and it’s interesting that when he gets on rolls such as this that people start asking him about his contract. McReynolds, understand, is expecting to go to arbitration next winter, hoping to get big money from the Padres.
“Oh, I don’t think of it that way,” he said when asked if he thinks home runs like that will help. “I just do my job, and if I do what I’m capable of, I’ll benefit later on.”
Hawkins and Thurmond benefitted from Padre defense. This team has not committed an error in seven games, and Garry Templeton made the play of the night, taking a ball hit off the glove of Graig Nettles and throwing Lonnie Smith out.
“A lot of times, I just throw it up there, and make them keep it in the field,” Hawkins said.
Speaking of Hawkins, the big difference is his “cut fastball,” a pitch that is semi-slider, semi-fastball. It’s his strike out pitch, and he struck out Willie McGee with two men on in the fifth with that pitch.
Still, it’s difficult to tell if something’s right with Andy Hawkins because he always looks as if everything’s wrong. He’s a pouter, although it’s not his fault. It’s just him, just his way to be shy.
Some say he’s too sensitive. And, apparently, it’s not best for pitchers to be this way. They must throw fastballs by hitters, mixing it all with finesse. It’s not good to pitch scared.
Williams said of Hawkins before Tuesday’s game: “I never saw a Texan so mild, quiet and nice.”
And this was Hawkins’ problem early in his career, a career that was spent partly in the bullpen, partly as a starter. So this is a new Andy Hawkins, one who throws strikes. Before Tuesday night, he hadn’t walked a batter since April 16 (28.2 innings). And he was 6-0 because of this. He is making teams earn runs. He is mixing three pitches (slider, fastball, change). He is deceptive.
“Guys sitting in the stands or on the bench don’t think he throws hard,” said Galen Cisco, his pitching coach. “But that’s until they get to the plate. He has that kind of fastball. It’s a little sneaky.
The Padres have played seven straight errorless games, beating their longest streak of last year. . . . About two weeks ago, Manager Dick Williams moved Terry Kennedy down in the batting order, thinking this would relax Kennedy. Apparently, it did. In 11 games, he has driven in 11 runs. On Tuesday night, he was the No. 7 hitter in the order. Said Williams: “In making out the order, I’m going by what we’ve done against certain guys (pitchers). If it’s called playing the percentages, it’s playing the percentages. Ninety percent of the time, we go with percentages. I carry them (the stats) on the bench with me. That’s my job. I don’t swing a bat or throw, but I manage the club. That’s my job.” . . . Steve Garvey spent Monday, his off day, having treatment done on his sore neck. So he played Tuesday night. And here are the Garv’s latest numbers: He leads the league in hits (44), he’s among the leaders in batting (.344), first in runs (22), and he has hit in 24 of the 31 games thus far.