Martinez Hits Another Homer, but His Bunt Beats the Mets, 4-3
Howard Johnson doesn’t speak Spanish, which was exactly why the New York Mets lost, 4-3, to the Padres Friday night.
It’s true. Before Carmelo Martinez laid down the perfect bunt that scored Steve Garvey with the winning run in the eighth inning, Padre third base coach Ozzie Virgil screamed to Martinez: “ Dejasela .”
“It means drop it on him,” Virgil would say later. “If it’s (Pedro) Guerrero, no I don’t say it.”
But Howard Johnson, the Met third baseman, grew up in Clearwater, Fla., and had no clue. He thought Martinez might bunt and had played up on the first two pitches from Met reliever Doug Sisk, both balls. But first baseman Keith Hernandez kept telling Johnson to move back, considering Martinez had homered in his last at-bat, considering the count was 2 and 0. So, as Sisk wound up to throw his third pitch, Johnson moved back.
Johnson came up and barehanded the ball.
Garvey, told in English by Virgil to be ready for the bunt, scored.
Johnson’s throw to first, which would have negated the run, was wide.
The Padres won.
And the winning pitcher was LaMarr Hoyt (5-4), who had to go nine full innings because Manager Dick Williams didn’t have Goose Gossage to turn to. Gossage is still recovering from a bicep injury, and although Greg Booker warmed up in the eighth inning, it was merely for show.
“I knew darn well he (Hoyt) would hold the last time (the ninth inning),” Williams said. “He knew it, too. We didn’t have anyone to get up.”
But the story was Martinez, his homer, his bunt, his hitting streak. On Thursday afternoon, Martinez hit two homers, leading San Diego to a victory. On Friday, he did it again.
Graig Nettles and Garry Templeton had RBIs in the fourth inning, putting the Padres ahead, 2-0, but the Mets tied it in the fifth when pitcher Sid Fernandez singled to left field off Hoyt, a disgusting moment for Hoyt.
Then, in the bottom of the sixth, Martinez homered to left off of a Fernandez fastball. The count had been 3 and 2. Martinez said later he was thinking home run if it was a fastball and thinking about just making contact if it was a breaking ball.
In the eighth, Mookie Wilson tied the game with a homer to right off Hoyt. On any other night, Gossage would have been pounding his fist.
Anyway, Garvey stared the bottom of the eighth with a single up the middle. He advanced to second on Kevin McReynold’s sacrifice bunt. He went to third on Nettles’ ground out to the right side of the infield.
Martinez strolled up. Virgil said dejasela , and Martinez nodded for Virgil to tell Garvey. Prior to the game, he had been working on his bunt, spending time with batting coach Deacon Jones. Apparently, he kept trying to bunt the ball too fine, trying to roll it right down the line. Jones told him to cut it out.
But would Johnson let Martinez bunt? He’d seen Martinez stare at where he was standing. So he came up. The first pitch from Sisk was low. Hernandez told Johnson to move back.
“I have to use my own judgment, though,” Johnson would say later.
Johnson stayed up. Sisk’s next pitch was inside. Martinez almost swung a real swing, and Johnson was convinced he’d hit away.
On the next pitch, he moved back.
“The count’s 2 and 0, and the guy has hit three home runs in the last two games,” Johnson said. “I don’t expect him to drag bunt. The guy’s got the pitcher right where he wants him, and he’s swinging hot. Why take a chance of popping the bunt up? He’s got to swing the bat.”
Said Martinez: “You get too excited in a situation like that. You want to win, so you might swing too hard and pop up. So I’m thinking ‘If he plays back, it’s a good situation to bunt.’
“I’m lucky. I got it down with a high pitch. I wanted to do it so bad.”
Johnson almost recovered. He came running in fast, but his throw was low and wide to the right.
“I won’t lose sleep over this,” he said.
But might he learn Spanish?
Met Manager Dave Johnson, his computer nowhere in sight, said Tim Flannery and Jerry Royster have offset the loss of second baseman Alan Wiggins. “They’ve strengthened the ballclub because they’re getting more RBI and run production with the two of them,” he said. Statistically, he could be right. Flannery and Royster have combined for a .267 batting average and 18 RBIs. Wiggins hit .258 last year with only 34 RBIs for the season. But, Wiggins also had 75 walks, 70 stolen bases and scored 106 runs. After 45 games, Royster and Flannery have combined for just 13 walks, 2 stolen bases and 13 runs. A little give and take there. . . . A season ago, the Mets were content to finish second behind the Chicago Cubs, mainly because they’d been so horrendous before. Said Johnson: “Generally, you have to contend first before you can win. The Cubs went out and got veterans. They made great deals. We’re building from within. It takes longer (to win), but you stay on top longer.”
PADRES AT A GLANCE
Scorecard FOURTH INNING Padres--With one out, McReynolds walked. Nettles doubled to left center, McReynolds scoring. Martinez singled to left, Nettles taking third. Kennedy struck out. Templeton doubled down the left field line, Nettles scoring, Martinez taking third. Hoyt struck out. Two runs, three hits, two left.
Mets--Foster singled to left. Heep doubled off the wall in left, Foster taking third. Johnson flew out to right, Foster tagging and scoring, Heep taking third. Santana struck out. Fernandez singled to left, Heep scoring. Wilson flew out to center. Two runs, three hits, one left.
Padres--With two outs, Martinez homered to left, his seventh. Kennedy struck out. One run, one hit, none left.
Mets--With one out, Wilson homered to right, his first. Backman grounded out to second. Hernandez flew out to left. One run, one hit, none left.
Padres--Sisk took the mound. Garvey singled to center. McReynolds bunted Garvey to second. Nettles grounded out to first unassisted, Garvey taking third. Martinez bunted for a single, Garvey scoring, Martinez taking second on Johnson’s throwing error. Kennedy was walked intentionally. Templeton flew out to left. One run, two hits, one left.