Obviously, he wasn’t happy. Still, he couldn’t honestly say he was sad.
For Benito Santiago, reaching the end of his 34-game hitting streak Saturday night was a matter of inevitability. As he so accurately put it, “I knew it would be over some time.”
Even though he batted second, Santiago went to the plate only three times in the Padres’ 1-0 victory over the Dodgers, which broke their nine-game losing streak before a crowd of 21,955 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. He struck out, grounded out and flied out, and that was it. He fell two batters short of getting a fourth time at bat.
Santiago’s problem was twofold. First, the Dodgers’ Orel Hershiser not only shut him out, he retired all but three of the 27 Padres he faced. Stan Jefferson hit his eighth home run of the season in the second inning, and only two men were left on base. Second, Jimmy Jones and Lance McCullers pitched so well for the Padres that their teammates didn’t have to go to bat in the ninth.
“How often do you see a No. 2 hitter not get at least four at-bats?” Padre Manager Larry Bowa asked.
Here is a pitch-by-pitch account of Santiago’s three times at bat:
--First Inning. Took a ball, hit a long foul, then swung and missed twice. Chased an outside pitch for the third strike.
--Fourth Inning. Took a ball, missed in an attempt to bunt, then grounded to shortstop Glenn Hoffman. The ball was hit hard, but Hoffman had to move only a step to his left.
--Sixth Inning. Swung at a bad pitch, took a ball, fouled off a pitch, then flied to right fielder Mike Marshall.
The Dodgers came within a whisker of giving Santiago one more chance in the ninth. They launched a threat against McCullers, only to have pinch-hitter Steve Sax strike out with runners on second and third, and Danny Heep fly out to Jefferson in left field with the bases loaded.
When Jefferson clutched the ball for the final out, Santiago’s teammates rushed onto the field to congratulate the rookie catcher, and the fans gave him one last standing ovation.
When Santiago faced reporters afterward, he almost seemed relieved. Almost, but not quite.
“Well, guys, this is over,” he said. “I will have to say thank you for the fun. I’m not really relieved, but it has been tough game after game. This will give me something to go after next year. If I start another streak then, that’s all right. There are a lot of games, and I can maybe go more than that.
“I just knew that sooner or later, somebody was going to get me out. He (Hershiser) didn’t give me a good pitch to hit. He moved the ball around a lot. He’s a tough pitcher.
“But really, I feel great about this whole thing. No matter I go 0 for 3. I go 34 games in a row, and that’s not easy to make. I’ve got records for rookies, catchers and Latins. There are no more records to break.”
Of course, there were two records left unbroken, and nobody knew it better than Santiago. He fell 10 short of the National League record shared by Wee Willie Keeler and Pete Rose, and 22 shy of the major league record held by Joe DiMaggio. He wound up in a tie for 12th place on the all-time streak list with George Sisler, George McQuinn and Dom DiMaggio, Joe’s younger brother.
Santiago batted .346 during the streak (47 for 136), which started Aug. 25 and was the longest in the National League this season and five short of the major league high, set by Paul Molitor of the Milwaukee Brewers.
Santiago is hitting .297, and Bowa said: “I plan to give him just one at-bat tomorrow (today), but if he gets a hit, I’ll let him try to get up to .300. That sounds a lot better than .299.”
In the Dodger clubhouse, Hershiser said: “Naturally, you bear down more on a hitter with a streak like that going. What made it even tougher for him is that the crowd got me pumped up.”
Hershiser, who pitched a three-hitter despite aggravating a right-knee injury that may require off-season surgery, finished with a 16-16 record despite the National League’s second-best earned-run average, 3.06.
Dodger pitcher Ken Howell, who has missed the last six weeks of the season because of a sore right shoulder, threw for 15 minutes before Saturday night’s game and was encouraged by the results. He will be examined in Los Angeles Monday by Dr. Frank Jobe. Surgery is still a possibility, but if Jobe rules that out, Howell will pitch in the Arizona Instructional League. He said after his workout, “This was the best I’ve felt since I hurt my shoulder. Tomorrow (today) is when it’s really important. The next day is when it always gets inflamed. I’m hoping it doesn’t happen this time.”
BASEBALL’S LONGEST HITTING STREAKS
PLAYER TEAM YEAR NO. Joe DiMaggio New York (A) 1941 56 Willie Keeler Baltimore (N) 1897 44 Pete Rose Cincinnati 1978 44 Bill Dahlen Chicago (N) 1894 42 George Sisler St. Louis (A) 1922 41 Ty Cobb Detroit 1911 40 Paul Molitor Milwaukee 1987 39 Tommy Holmes Boston (N) 1945 37 Bill Hamilton Philadelphia 1894 36 Ty Cobb Detroit 1917 35 Fred Clarke Louisville 1895 35 Dom DiMaggio Boston (A) 1949 34 George McQuinn St. Louis (A) 1938 34 Benito Santiago San Diego 1987 34 George Sisler St. Louis (A) 1925 34 George Davis New York (N) 1893 33 Heinie Manush Washington 1933 33 Rogers Hornsby St. Louis (N) 1922 33 Ed Delahanty Philadelphia 1899 31 Ken Landreaux Minnesota 1980 31 Rico Carty Atlanta 1970 31 Willie Davis Dodgers 1969 31 Sam Rice Washington 1924 31 Elmer Smith Cincinnati 1898 30 George Brett Kansas City 1980 30 Ron LeFlore Detroit 1976 30 Stan Musial St. Louis (N) 1950 30 Goose Goslin Detroit 1934 30 Tris Speaker Boston (A) 1912 30