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Padres Are All Alone in Fourth

<i> Times Staff Writer </i>

Not that he’s biased or anything, but Tim Flannery thinks he has a super looking baby boy, and, actually, the kid appears to be pretty sharp, based on some baby pics Flannery was flashing Sunday night.

“Look at those eyes,” Flannery was saying in a squeaky voice. Then he spoke to one of the photos. “You don’t care that we’ve lost 14 of 19 games. Huh? Do you? Do you?”

Uh, do the Padres?

Because after yet another loss here Sunday, a 2-1 defeat to Houston that left them with five straight losses and fourth place all to themselves, one guy in particular was wondering out loud about his teammates’ will to win.

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“This team is used to being in first place or near it for two years now, and so it’s hard to come out and get up for games when they’re being played in front of 3,000 or 4,000 people,” said LaMarr Hoyt, Sunday’s starting pitcher. “But you’re paid to play. And that seems to be getting lost here . . . What I mean is that you have to give 100% whether or not you have a chance of winning the pennant. And I’m sure everyone is doing the best they can, but when you’re averaging one run per game, something’s wrong. We’re not facing the best pitchers in the world.

“It’s just a deadness or a dullness. We’re kind of waiting for someone to hit a two-run homer or a three-run homer. But you can’t wait. You’ve got to do it yourself . . . No way should we have been beaten like this on the road trip.”

Now, before anyone gets riled about this, the Padres say they do care, and, yes, they probably do. Third place means $4,000 a man. But something desperately is wrong when you play seven games and score just 11 runs.

“I can’t explain it, and I won’t even try to figure it out anymore,” said outfielder Tony Gwynn, who had a migraine headache this weekend, which kind of makes sense considering he had to watch his team play every day.

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Actually, the games have mostly been on the close side, mainly because of decent pitching (Only 17 runs scored against them in seven games). Still, opportunity would knock nightly, and the Padres wouldn’t answer the door.

In the top of the eighth on Sunday, Garry Templeton was in scoring position with one out when Gwynn grounded out. Templeton took third, which left it all up to Jerry Royster. Royster hit the ball hard, but right at center fielder Kevin Bass. Tough luck.

In the bottom of the eight, rookie first baseman Glenn Davis led off with a home run to left off Craig Lefferts. Good luck.

Game over with.

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And it was nice of Manager Dick Williams to take blame for the loss.

“I’ll take responsibility for that game,” he said. “I shouldn’t have let Lefferts face Davis. He’s hit him in the past. I should have made the switch (to Lance McCullers), and I didn’t do it . . . I let him go in there, so I’ll be responsible for it.”

Davis had been 3 for 5 against Lefferts, all doubles.

“I can’t even remember getting him out,” Lefferts said. “So I can see his (Williams’) feelings. But I’ve been throwing good lately. I went out and said ‘I’ll get him out.’ But he hit it a country mile. No, further. That was probably the longest home run I’ve given up. Probably the longest I’ve seen.”

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Williams, it seems, isn’t taking too much flak at home, though, and this is because there were few violent callers on his Saturday night talk show.

“They’re nice,” he said. “Not that they should be.”

For instance, there’s this lady from Idaho that keeps calling, and all she’d say is that she won’t leave on vacation anymore because the Padres keep falling apart while she’s gone.

Of course, no one can explain this hex the Astros have over San Diego. In nine games at the Astrodome this year, Houston has won eight. Worse yet, there was a cockroach climbing around Williams’ office Sunday night. When it’s bad, it’s bad.

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And when it’s good, it’s good. Here in Houston, new Astro General Manager Dick Wagner is undefeated, 3-0 since he took over. Plus, Jose Cruz had his 2,000th career hit Sunday.

When asked about No. 3,000, Cruz said, “Oh, I don’t want to think about it now, but you never know.”

Back to Wagner. On Sunday, he traded 40-year-old Joe Niekro to the Yankees for a young pitching prospect and a player to be named, perhaps an ominous omen of things to come. Some of the veterans here tend to think Wagner will clean house, but Phil Garner said of the Niekro trade: “Change is inevitable. No doubt he (Niekro) was a good player to have on the club as a pitcher and a person, but all things change sooner or later.”

Just as things have changed in San Diego, where last year’s World Series is such a strange memory. Flannery, for instance, is having his best statistical year, hitting .289, but was having dinner recently with a friend who asked if he’d trade last year for this year. Flannery said “Yes, certainly.”

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“Even with all these good numbers, I don’t like losing,” Flannery told him. “If you don’t win, it’s not as fun.”

So, don’t these Padres care about winning?

“Damn right,” Gwynn said.

Especially with the Dodgers coming in, right?

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“I’d settle for beating anybody,” Gwynn said. “I don’t just want to beat the Dodgers because they’re the Dodgers. I just want to win. Please.”

Padre Notes The Padres had a runner on with two outs in the ninth, as Houston reliever Dave Smith faced Tim Flannery, which happens to be a special confrontation. “He’s almost like a brother to me,” Flannery said. “I surf with him all winter.” Smith threw Flannery a 3-and-2 changeup, and he grounded out to end the game. . . . Astro starter Nolan Ryan, coming off a strained shoulder injury, threw six innings Sunday and yielded only six hits and a run before taking himself out for protective purposes. . . . Glenn Davis’ home run, his 15th, set the all-time Astro record for home runs by a rookie. Joe Morgan, rumored to be a likely candidate to replace Astro Manager Bob Lillis next season, previously held the record.

PADRES AT A GLANCE

FIRST INNING

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Padres--Dilone reached on an infield single. Dilone stole second. Templeton sacrificed Dilone to third. Gwynn flied to left, Dilone scoring. Nettles walked. Kennedy grounded to first, unassisted. One run, one hit, one left.

FOURTH INNING

Astros--With one out, Walling reached on a bunt single. Walling took second on a passed ball. Cruz singled to center, Walling scoring, Cruz taking second on throw to plate. Mumphrey lined to second baseman Flannery, who doubled up Cruz. One run (unearned), two hits, one left.

EIGHTH INNING

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Astros--Lefferts pitching. Davis homered to left, his 15th. Pankovits flied to center. Bailey singled to left. McCullers replaced Lefferts. Garner reached first when Dilone dropped his fly ball to center, Bailey taking second. Bass struck out. Reynolds popped out to short. One run, two hits, two left.


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