What happens when, at about 9 p.m. on a chilly night, a struggling hitting team meets up with a 6-foot 5-inch guy who throws hard enough to curl your haircut? Put it this way: The latest Padre uprising didn't just come to a stop Wednesday, it came to a freeze.
The Padres' four-game winning streak vanished as quick as you can say "ToddWorrellfastball" in a 2-1 loss to St. Louis in front of 15,523 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
For the fifth consecutive game, the Padre pitching was excellent and the hitting was suspect . . . but this time the bats failed at the worst time, and against one of the hardest throwers in the National League.
Trailing, 2-0, in the seventh, the Padres loaded the bases only to have Worrell come in and act as the baseball equivalent to a kick in the teeth. He retired all but two of the 10 Padre hitters he faced, and one of those two, he intentionally walked.
With two men on base in the seventh, he struck out pinch-hitter Tim Flannery on three pitches, all swinging. With the tying run on second in the eighth, he struck out Roberto Alomar on five pitches, swinging.
He whipped through the ninth with nine pitches, including striking out John Kruk to end the game on three consecutive pitches after falling behind him, 3 and 0.
Baseball players refer to any pitcher's good fastballs as "cheese." Worrell's fastballs, in the 95-m.p.h. range, qualify as good. Thus the Padre postgame clubhouse could have passed for a dairy.
"Great cheese," Tony Gwynn said of Worrell, who earned his fifth save, impressive considering that the Cardinals have only won six times. "Roberto (Alomar) came up to me and asked what he was throwing. I told him, 'He's throwing change-ups, fastballs, uh . . . he's throwing hard .'
"That was all I could tell him. It was the first time I had seen Worrell, and he was really cranking."
Said Randy Ready, who grounded out against Worrell in the eighth, stranding Gwynn on second base after Gwynn's single: "He really threw cheese, threw all of us cheese, real hard. It was some cheese."
Flannery shook his head.
"He rushed it up there. It's an occupational hazard I face," said the pinch-hitter, who had the disadvantage of facing Worrell cold. "This job . . . it's why my hair looks the way it does."
While Flannery's blond hair is thinning and often messy, Manager Larry Bowa's hair was pulled tight. He had just watched Jimmy Jones throw his third consecutive great game, but his team went 5 for 27 against the other guys' pitchers (Greg Mathews, Bob Forsch, Worrell). During the past five games, as good as the pitching has been, the club has gone 34 for 145 (.234) with 12 total runs, or just more than two runs per night.
Some nights, miraculously, that has been enough, particularly with the Padres' 0.40 ERA during that stretch. But most nights, it's not.
"It's hard to ask any pitcher to win, 1-0, every night," Bowa said. "Our hitters just haven't busted out. I think we're doing pretty well with guys on base--we just aren't getting too many guys to first. It will come, I'm sure. It has to."
The winning run came for the Cardinals in the seventh inning on Luis Alicea's single through a drawn-in infield that scored Tom Brunansky from third. Brunansky had reached base on Randy Ready's throwing error.
The Padres could have won the game in the seventh, which looked as if it would be their inning, thanks to an error by Alicea, a single by Keith Moreland and an intentional walk by Worrell, who had just entered, to pinch-hitter John Kruk. There was just one out.
But this is the Worrell who last season became the first pitcher to save 30 or more games in his first two seasons in the majors. He quickly allowed an RBI fly to Garry Templeton to make it 2-1. But it was just a tease. Up stepped Flannery, who sat down just as quickly.
In the eighth, with one out, Gwynn singled and stole second. But Alomar struck out and Ready grounded out. Then the ninth, and the game.
"If I could go out every time and feel like I did tonight, I'd save 50 or 60 ballgames,' Worrell said.
The Padre pitchers can do only so much. And Jones did so much, scattering six hits over seven innings. Only two of those were out of the infield, one a certain 330-foot homer by Brunansky in the fifth that broke the Padre pitchers' scoreless streak at 37 innings, just 4 shy of the club record. What it had taken six Padre pitchers 37 innings to build up, Brunansky brought down with one swing. On Jones' first pitch of the fifth inning, the Brunansky, a former Minnesota Twin, hit his first National League homer, a lofting shot over the left-field fence.
On the very next play, as if to remind the fans what had kept the streak going for so long, third baseman Ready picked off a Tony Pena grounder down the line, falling to his face, picking it off, and then standing up to throw Pena out.
Of the two runs Jones allowed, only one was earned, giving him just two earned runs in his last three starts covering 20 innings (0.88 ERA). Overall in five starts he has a 2.46 ERA, with just five walks in 25 innings. For comparison's sake, rookie Candy Sierra has that many in seven innings.
Although the Cardinals scored in the fifth and seventh, the score could have been much worse were it not for a sixth-inning escape, Jones' evening's best work. He started by walking Vince Coleman and allowing a hit-and-run infield single down the third-base line by Ozzie Smith. Coleman was then thrown out by Benito Santiago as he tried to steal third.
This is the same Coleman who led the league in steals for the past three years, which you might not have known just by watching him this week. Coleman, who was thrown out just 22 times last season while stealing 109 bases, has been thrown out twice in two days by Santiago. That figure equaled or bettered totals by eight National League teams for all of last season.
Jones didn't seem appreciative of the help as he promptly allowed another single, this time to Willie McGee, moving Smith to second. But out came pitching coach Pat Dobson for a chat and, moments later, down went the Cardinal rally. Bob Horner grounded out to first and it was all Terry Pendleton could do to fight off an 0-and-2 pitch and fly out to center.
The Cardinal left-handed starter, Mathews, entered with a record of great success against the middle of the Padre lineup--Ready, Moreland and Santiago were a combined 5 for 26 (.192) in their careers against him--but was never able to show it off. After allowing just one hit in three innings, and holding the Padre middle to an 0-for-3 mark, he left the game with a stiff left shoulder.
What Happens When You're Winning, Part I: Padre first baseman John Kruk, who has missed a week with a strained right shoulder, thought he finally was going to be back in the starting lineup Wednesday. Before Tuesday's game, Manager Larry Bowa promised him that. During Tuesday's game, Bowa said he might pinch-hit. After Tuesday's game, Kruk was promised that he would start Wednesday. But when Kruk showed up at the park, his name was not in the lineup. Bowa told him that with the four-game winning streak, he was not about to make any changes. "He told me he was afraid to shake things up," a frustrated Kruk said, shaking his head. "I've heard about 50 times that they are going to get my bat into the lineup, and it ain't happened yet. The way it looks, I'm never going to be able to come back. I don't blame them, but it's bad luck for me." It didn't help that Wednesday the Cardinals were starting a left-handed pitcher, Greg Mathews, the kind that gives the left-handed-hitting Kruk trouble. "A guy who has missed that much time, you like to ease him back in there," batting coach Amos Otis said. So today Kruk will face hard-throwing Jose DeLeon. He hopes. He is well aware that when he is not in the lineup, the Padres are 6-1. "That's a great stat," Kruk said. Said Bowa: "Why change? Things are going good, why do anything different? Johnny understands."