Three months ago, had the Padres gotten themselves into a situation like Tuesday's ninth inning, they would have been emotionally unable to swallow.
Tie score with Philadelphia Phillies, Veterans Stadium, ninth inning, none out, Phillies on first and second, star outfielder on the brink.
"I'm thinking, shoot ," Tony Gwynn said. "I'm thinking, 'How are we going to lose this one?' Two on, their park. . . . They are almost guaranteed to get something home."
Yet, ask the Padres this morning. They'll tell you Tuesday night went down just fine.
Thanks to the biggest save that does not count as a save of pitcher Mark Davis' career, the Padres survived the ninth-inning threat unbruised. They took an inning to regain their breath, then scored five times in the 11th on John Kruk's two-run single and Benito Santiago's three-run homer, his second of the game.
Against the National League's hottest team, it all amounted to a 9-4 win.
The Phillies were winners of seven of their last eight games, and the third-best team in the league since May with a 53-38 record. The Padres, well, they had won five games in the parks inhabited by teams from the National League East. They had lost 22.
Tuesday's game was the first of a six-game Eastern trip and the first of 13 straight against East Division teams. Afterward, the Padres left Veterans Stadium around midnight with their 13th win in 18 games.
They remain two games behind Atlanta and pull to 3 1/2 of the Dodgers in what is becoming a battle to stay out of the West basement.
"We spent the first two months of the season looking for someone to take us to the Promised Land," Gwynn said. "Tonight proved now we know we got 24 guys who can do that."
It if wasn't the game this season that showed the most heart, it most certainly was the one that showed the lowest heart rate.
Start with Davis, who took a 4-4 tie into the ninth and promptly gave up a double down the left-field line to Ron Roenicke, a ninth-inning defensive replacement. Juan Samuel and his 77 RBIs were then intentionally walked, putting runners on first and second with none out.
In stepped .299-hitting Von Hayes, with three RBIs already this night to give him 71 for the season. Manager Larry Bowa walked to the mound and told Davis that on his next two pitches, the infield would be playing for a bunt.
"He was calm and everything," said Davis, who could see stopper Goose Gossage sitting down in the left-field bullpen. "Then he turned and walked off the field and I'm thinking, 'Yeah, he's going to leave me in here. All right!' "
Other people were thinking other things.
"I'm thinking, 'We can get out of this, it can be done, but it's going to take a gamble,' " pitching coach Galen Cisco said.
Hayes didn't bunt, instead lifting a soft fly to right. It moved Roenicke to third, and on the next pitch Samuel stole second, leaving just Davis and batter Chris James, hitting .321 and coming off an RBI single in the seventh that had tied the score.
With first base open, you walk James, right? One problem: On deck was Mike Schmidt.
With James being a right-handed hitter and Davis being a left-handed pitcher, you at least bring in the right-handed Gossage, right? One problem:
"Gossage needs a couple of hitters to get loose, I don't like to bring him in those kinds of situations every time," Bowa said.