Padres Hang On and McCullers Stops Reds, 3-2

Times Staff Writer

Real music could be heard in the Padre clubhouse Tuesday night, a rarity for a team that usually faces the music from its manager, Larry Bowa.

But the Padres defeated the Cincinnati Reds, 3-2, on shortstop Garry Templeton’s eighth-inning RBI single, so it was all right to turn up the dial for once.

Actually, the game was won when Padre reliever Lance McCullers turned up his nose at two late Cincinnati rallies. In the eighth inning, Kurt Stillwell was on third with two outs when Red center fielder Eric Davis--who had already hit a home run--stepped up.


But McCullers struck him out on a fastball--the 90-m.p.h. kind.

Then, in the ninth, the Reds had Dave Concepcion on third and Ron Oester on first with two outs. Pinch-hitter Paul O’Neill stepped up.

McCullers struck him out on a fastball--also the 90-m.p.h. kind.

The first man to greet McCullers was Bowa, who was his usual down-in-the-dumps self before Tuesday’s game. For instance, he had thrown batting practice in 80-degree heat before the game while wearing a heavy warmup jacket. When he finished and walked to the dugout, he said: “I was trying to have a stroke, but it didn’t work.”

Instead, he settled for a stroke of genius. It was his idea to insert rookie center fielder James Steels into the lineup, and Steels responded by drawing a bases-loaded walk in the seventh inning--tying the score, 2-2.

The person who walked Steels was Red reliever Ron Robinson, who hadn’t walked a man in 14 innings this year. The count got to 3 and 2 when Steels stepped out of the batter’s box.


A wise move, it seemed. Just as basketball coaches freeze free-throw shooters in the final seconds, Steels appeared to be freezing Robinson.

“No, that wasn’t my intention,” Steels said. “As soon as I put one foot in the box, he went into his stretch. I wasn’t ready, so I had to step out.”

Robinson threw ball four--way outside.

So the score was tied. Padre starter Eric Show had kept San Diego close for once, as he went seven innings and gave up just two runs and three hits. Davis hit the hardest ball off him, a solo homer in the fourth.

“Larry told me before this year I’d have to fill the role of the stopper,” Show said. “I better get used to it.”

As for Cincinnati, Mario Soto was making his first start of the season. He had been out since last August with a rotator cuff injury, and he was a little nervous before Tuesday’s game. For one thing, he didn’t sleep Monday night. And he promised himself if he pitched well, he’d buy himself a gift.

Soto said he was hoping he could throw a complete game.

But Red right fielder Dave Parker told him: “Who you trying to kid? You won’t throw a complete game your first time back. Just give us six good ones, and we’ll take it from there.”

Soto gave them six good ones. When he left after the sixth, the Reds were leading, 2-1. Then Robinson walked in Steels.

Next came Templeton.

In the eighth against reliever Rob Murphy, Steve Garvey beat out an infield single (a grounder to shortstop Stillwell), and Luis Salazar pinch-ran. Salazar eventually stole second, and Marvell Wynne (a late-inning substitute for Steels) walked.

Templeton drove in Salazar with a line single to right.

It was Murphy’s first major league loss. He had been 8-0.

“That’s what it’s all about--driving in runs with runners in scoring position,” Templeton said.

Previously, the Padres hadn’t done too well at that. Bowa was talking about this before Tuesday’s game. He said with runners in scoring position and less than two outs, the Padres have a team batting average of .228 (13 for 57). In that situation, Cora is 0 for 7; Garvey is 1 for 9; third baseman Kevin Mitchell is 0 for 5; catcher Benito Santiago is 0 for 7; Gwynn is 4 for 6 and left fielder/first baseman Carmelo Martinez is 4 for 6. Just to name a few.

“It’s killing us,” Bowa said.

But when Templeton delivered, the Padres had won, improving their record to 3-12.

“We scored three runs and won by one,” Bowa said. “That’s a laugher for us.”

And if you’re looking for a good laugh, a 7-year-old girl named Erika mailed an interesting letter to the Padres this week, and most of the players were laughing about it.

It said:

Dear Padres: You should start out losing, so you can save your energy. Please write back. Your friend, Erika.

Losing hasn’t saved any of Bowa’s energy, who ripped off his heavy jacket Tuesday and said: “Phew.”

Padre Notes In an interview Tuesday night, Padre General Manager Jack McKeon said Manager Larry Bowa should relax and stop worrying about his job security.

“I think Larry Bowa’s done a very good job,” McKeon said. “Unfortunately, the wins aren’t there, but there have been no problems with his (managerial) moves. Sure, he’s very intense. But, as far as pressure from upstairs (the front office), absolutely not. He’s doing a good job, and he’ll get better.”

McKeon praised rookie catcher Benito Santiago and rookie second baseman Joey Cora, and he said his pitchers aren’t as terrible as they have appeared. He said he will wait until the season is about a month old before thinking about making major player transactions.

He said the pending sale of the team to Seattle owner George Argyros does not inhibit him from making deals.

For the first time this season, Bowa rested third baseman Kevin Mitchell. “Everybody else has had a day off,” Bowa said. “Why not him? Actually, the only one who hasn’t is Tony (Gwynn), and he likes to play every day.”

Bowa started rookie James Steels in center field ahead of Marvell Wynne and Luis Salazar. “Why not let someone else try to win a job?” Bowa said of Steels. “Nobody else wants to do anything. Give everybody a chance. We’re losing with the guys who have played in the big leagues, so why not?” . . . Asked if he might make changes with his pitching staff, Bowa said: “What am I supposed to do? How can you bring up kids when their ERA at Triple-A is 6? This is it. What you see is what you get.”

Bowa’s mother, Mary, who had been hospitalized with a liver ailment since April 5, went home on Sunday. Bowa says she’s feeling much better.