Padres are using such people as Flannery, Ready, Salazar, Mack, Bochy and Kruk, and half of America couldn't tell you their first names. But you better break 'em up quick, because the "Killer Pods" have won two straight.
After Saturday night's 5-3 victory over the now-blushing Atlanta Braves, Manager Larry Bowa was penciling in today's lineup, and he did it again.
Flannery (Tim), Ready (Randy), Salazar (Luis), Mack (Shane), Bochy (Bruce) and Kruk (John). They're all in there.
"We're the Dirt Dogs," said second baseman Flannery, who saved a run in the fifth inning Saturday when he dove and snared Albert Hall's ground ball with a runner on second. "That's right, Dirt Dogs. That's what (umpire) Doug Harvey said tonight. He saw me, Kruk and Salazar, Ready and he said, 'You guys are the dirtiest, ugliest infielders I've ever seen.' "
Call them the Dirty Half-Dozen.
Anyway, Saturday's game featured--among other things--Ed Whitson's injury, Kruk's thievery, Tony Gwynn's consistency and a near catastrophe.
Ready and Mack and James Steels offered a glimpse of the future, and reliever Lance McCullers offered a glimpse of the past.
And, for the first time all year, the Padres clinched a season series.
"Shoot, I hadn't won a series since the World Series," said outfielder Kevin Mitchell, who played with the world champion Mets last year.
Whitson picked up his sixth victory of the year, but he had to leave after the fifth inning with a right knee injury. With two outs in that fifth (and the Padres ahead, 4-2), Brave first baseman Gerald Perry lined a ball right back at Whitson. Whitson saw the ball coming for his neck, so he ducked. But his spikes caught in the mound, and he fell awkwardly to the turf, twisting his knee.
A run scored on the play--making it 4-3--and Bowa ran out with the trainer, Dick Dent, to inspect Whitson's knee.
Bowa asked Whitson if he wanted to come out.
"I need one more out," Whitson said.
Dale Murphy, who had hit a 400-foot two-run homer in the first inning, was coming up.
"You better get him," Bowa said.
Whitson didn't. Murphy grounded meekly down to third, but still beat it out for an infield single. The bases were loaded for Ken Griffey, but Whitson--in obvious pain--got Griffey to ground out to second.
"I wasn't going to come out," Whitson said. "I didn't care if King Kong was at the plate. And, right then, Dale Murphy was King Kong. He'd already hit one off me."
Whitson said the injury probably won't cause him to miss a start.
In the meantime, the Padre offense was clicking. Center fielder Mack, who finished with two hits and an RBI, started the game with a single off Brave loser Larry McWilliams. He eventually scored on Gwynn's opposite field bloop single. Gwynn continues to lead the league with a .362 batting average.
In the third, Ready singled to left and eventually scored on Kruk's single to center. Kruk, who doesn't have enough at-bats to qualify for the league lead, is batting .381.
"All of a sudden, people are saying, 'John Kruk can play!' " said Gwynn. "But I've been saying this for two years. Look at him! Look at him! (Kruk was being mobbed by reporters at the time.) He's so arrogant right now. But he deserves to be."
In the fourth, Mack had an RBI single and so did third baseman Ready. Ready's minor league numbers read as follows: .376 at Butte, Mont., in 1980; .308 at Burlington, N.C., in 1981; .375 at El Paso, Tex., in 1982; .329 at Vancouver in 1983.
Wherever he's slept, he's hit. But his Padre batting average was just .269 before Saturday.
"I don't think I've ever had a chance to play every day (in the majors)," Ready said.
Bowa said of Ready: "He's a little dirt ball, and that's not supposed to be a rip. He's got his nose in the dirt all the time. He's a right-handed Flannery."
Steels manufactured the Padres' fifth and final run all by himself. Pinch-hitting for Whitson in the top of the sixth, he bunted over pitcher Charlie Puleo's head and beat it out for a single. He stole second. Then, he tried stealing third with Ready at the plate. Brave third baseman Ken Oberkfell ran over to take a throw, but Ready swung and hit the ball right where Oberkfell was originally positioned. Steels scored easily on Ready's third single of the night.
So the rest was up to McCullers, who recently had lost his role as bullpen ace to Goose Gossage. In the seventh, there were two runners on base for Murphy with two outs. McCullers said he was psyched to strike him out.
But then there was near catastrophe.
With the count 2 and 2, McCullers threw an inside fastball, and Murphy crunched it high and very, very far.
But it curled foul.
McCullers' next pitch was the slowest changeup you've ever seen.
"If I had thrown him another fastball, he'd have hit it out of the ballpark," McCullers said. "That's how much he was thinking fastball. I knew he'd be looking fastball, so I threw the changeup. He'd never seen a changeup from me before."
And if the Padres win again today, we'll see something else we haven't seen before--at least not this year.
A three-game Padre winning streak.
Padre Notes Pitcher Storm Davis pulled General Manager Jack McKeon aside on Friday to ask him if he'd ever get to start a game again. Davis had started seven games early in the year, but his earned-run average reached 6.00, and Manager Larry Bowa sent him to the bullpen. McKeon told him to ask Bowa. Davis didn't ask Bowa, though. "I'm going to wait," he said Saturday. In the meantime, Bowa said he wants to see Dave Dravecky pitch in Houston. If Dravecky (1-5, 4.93 ERA) struggles, Bowa said Davis might just get his wish.
Shortstop Garry Templeton has pronounced himself fit and ready to play. His right shoulder has been sore for days, but he threw during batting practice and said: "Lance (McCullers) was catching me at first and said I had good velocity." But Templeton won't be back in the lineup until he tells Bowa he's ready, and he hasn't told Bowa yet.
Kevin Mitchell hasn't played much recently because of a broken little toe on his right foot. But Bowa wanted him to start Saturday's game against Brave left-hander Larry McWilliams, and Mitchell said he would try. He went 1 for 4
Add Mitchell: Late Thursday night, he was stopped by a U.S. customs officer at the Montreal airport because he had purchased $3,000 worth of clothes in Montreal and was supposed to pay a $150 tax duty. He refused.
The officer told Mitchell he couldn't leave until he paid the $150. "Fine," Mitchell reportedly said. "Just give me a pillow. That's all I need." The officer replied: "Where you'll be sleeping, you'll need more than a pillow," indicating Mitchell was on the brink of being jailed.
Traveling secretary Doc Mattei paid the $150 for Mitchell, although Mitchell later reimbursed him. And then Mitchell told all his teammates: "They stopped me because I look so good."
Brave Manager Chuck Tanner got into a fight Friday night with one of his own pitchers, Randy O' Neal. It happened after Friday's game. Tanner told O'Neal he was sending him down to Triple-A, and O'Neal began shouting.
Pitching coach Bruce Dal Canton was restraining Tanner when reporters entered. The office was in disarray, papers everywhere. And Tanner had a scratch above his left eye. O'Neal might not report to the Triple-A team in Richmond, and if he doesn't, he will be suspended without pay. He makes $100,000 a year.