Something's Up in the Hometown Air for Padres

Times Staff Writer

Maybe it was the atmosphere. It's not nearly as humid in San Diego as it is in Pittsburgh, Chicago or St. Louis.

Was there another earthquake in San Diego Monday? Maybe the Padres' three home runs were aftershocks. And how do you explain Bip Roberts' long sacrifice fly to center field?

It could have been the twilight start. Not too dark and not much sun.

Give some credit to home cooking and a lack of suitcases. After all, the Padres have hit 58 home runs in 51 home games and just 29 homers in 49 road games.

After going a season-high stretch of seven consecutive games without a home run, the Padres got two in the third inning of their 5-2 victory against the Cincinnati Reds at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

Homer No. 1: "That's the farthest ball I've ever hit in my life," said Padre right fielder Tony Gwynn.

Gwynn smashed a high, 1-and-1 breaking pitch from Tom Browning deep into the bleachers in right field, at least 20 rows back.

It was the 11th home run of the season for Gwynn, whose previous season high was last year's six.

Homer No. 2: A couple of minutes after Gwynn finished circling the bases, Kevin McReynolds made it back-to-back home runs with a drive that cleared the inner wall in right-center field. It was the first time the Padres have hit consecutive homers since July 10, when Gwynn and McReynolds homered against John Tudor of St. Louis.

McReynolds' shot Monday came off a high, 2-and-0 breaking pitch. It was his 14th homer of the season, tying him with Steve Garvey for the team lead.

"I was sitting on an off-speed pitch and hit it pretty well," said McReynolds, who also doubled to right in the first inning.

"I've been making a lot better contact lately," he said. "It's a real good sign that I hit those two balls to the opposite field. When I'm in a good groove, I drive the ball to left- and right-center. I had been trying to pull the ball too much."

Homer No. 3 came when Jerry Royster led off the fifth inning with a towering drive into the left-field seats. It was Royster's second home run of the season. His first came against Montreal on May 28.

"I hit a fastball that he (Browning) probably wanted to throw," Royster said. "He had been working me away and this pitch was up and in. Hitting it was a fluke for me. I really shouldn't swing at that pitch."

All three home runs came off Browning, who had won four straight and hadn't allowed a home run in his last five starts. But Browning still leads the Reds' staff in home runs allowed with 19.

"I had a good fastball but everything else was up," Browning said. "When you're as aggressive as I was today or any day, you're going to get burned when you make a mistake."

That's particularly true when facing a powerful club like the Padres. . . .

Hold the laughs.

The Padres are actually ahead of their home run pace of a season ago. Last year, the Padres did not hit their 87th homer until their 126st game on Aug. 27. They have 87 home runs in 100 games this season.

But don't be fooled, warns Padre Manager Steve Boros.

"I still don't believe we're a home run-hitting club," Boros said. "We're still going to have to scuffle for runs. I don't see us as a big offensive machine."

It must have been the atmosphere Monday night.

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