Padres Discover Success Formula and Defeat Expos
The winning formula that the Padres found Saturday night in a 3-2 victory over the Montreal Expos is the one Manager Larry Bowa has been searching for since spring training.
He got a quality start from veteran pitcher Ed Whitson. The winning run was a result of the combined two-out effort of three rookie players, two of whom started this season at triple-A Las Vegas. And the save went to Lance McCullers, the designated stopper who had gone a month without one.
“Actually,” McCullers said, “we haven’t had too many chances for one lately.”
That was true when the Padres were stumbling through a streak of 11 losses in 12 games, but something nice has happened to the Padres since they returned to San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium from a seven-game trip.
They scored a season-high seven runs in a 7-1 victory Friday, and Saturday, in front of a towel-night crowd of 43,811, they made the most of their scoring opportunities. The result was their first consecutive victories since they won four in a row at the start of their last home stand almost three weeks ago.
Just as the Padres had done in their first victory over the Expos, when Shane Mack got the game-winner Friday, a two-out single was again the difference.
This time, it was rookie second baseman Roberto Alomar who got the key hit in the seventh off starter Dennis Martinez. Shawn Abner had been hit in the back, and Randell Byers, pinch-hitting for Whitson, had singled to right.
All three players were in the minors last year, and only Abner started this season with the Padres. Alomar, who has started all 21 games since being recalled April 20, said a meeting earlier in the week helped him and the other rookies.
“We have a a lot of young players who try to hit the ball too hard with men on base,” he said. “Now we just say, make contact with men on base. Hit the ball the other way. If you can do that, you can win a lot of games.”
Expo Manager Buck Rodgers said the three pitches that got Martinez in trouble were all curveballs. That was the pitch Alomar said he was expecting.
“I was looking for a curveball because almost all pitchers with men in scoring position go to their best pitch, and with Martinez, his best pitch is the curveball.”
Alomar’s single regained the one-run lead that the Padres had lost in the top of the inning on first baseman Andres Galarraga’s home run to left-center off Whitson.
It was the one mistake in what was otherwise Whitson’s best game in nearly a month. The victory for Whitson (3-2) was his first since April 23 against Houston. He pitched 7 innings, allowing 3 hits, 2 runs and 1 walk. He struck out 5 and at one point retired 14 batters in a row.
McCullers came on to pitch the final two scoreless innings, allowing a single and a walk. He struck out Jeff Reed to end the game.
Whitson attributed his rejuvenated performance to a change in his delivery.
“I was rushing,” Whitson said. “I just had to slow everything down.”
But Whitson started as if the troubles that had plagued him in his past three starts would follow him again. Whitson, who had allowed 20 hits and 16 earned runs while completing just 7 innings in his past three starts, found himself behind, 1-0, after just two batters.
Left fielder Tim Raines opened the game by stroking a triple into the Expo bullpen in the right-field corner. He scored when the next batter, second baseman Johnny Paredes, grounded out to second. But Whitson settled down in the middle innings.
After Reed’s one-out single in the second and a walk to Tom Foley two batters later, Whitson retired the next 14 hitters in a row.
The calm ended with flair, however, when Galarraga hit his home run over the 370-foot sign in left-center to tie the game at 2-2 with one out in the seventh.
The homer erased a 2-1 lead that the Padres had built with single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
First baseman John Kruk, who has four of the Padres’ eight walks in the series, walked with one out in the fourth. Benito Santiago, batting cleanup for the second night, doubled down the left-field line to move Kruk to third.
Kruk scored when Randy Ready lofted a sacrifice fly to short right field that was caught by Hubie Brooks. Brooks’ throw to the plate was behind Kruk, and the Padres tied the game at 1-1. The inning ended when Carmelo Martinez grounded out to third.
The Padres took their first lead in the next inning when Abner doubled to left-center with one out. Whitson, who had stuck out in the third inning and had failed to get on base in his eight previous plate appearances, singled to left. Abner scored as the throw from Raines was off target to the right.
Galarraga tied the game two innings later before Alomar’s two-out game-winning single.
“I feel confident,” Alomar said. “I didn’t feel pressure. I just got up there and hit the ball.”
Dave Leiper, who has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 2 because of tendinitis in his left elbow, said he doubted he would be ready to rejoin the team when he is eligible to be reactivated Tuesday. Leiper threw for about 10 minutes Friday and plans to throw again today, but said his recovery was coming along more slowly than he expected. “I threw, but it’s just not 100%,” Leiper said. The same injury forced Leiper to start the season on the disabled list, and he pitched only 4 scoreless innings before he was put on the DL for a second time on May 2. . . . Keith Moreland, who is resting a sore left shoulder this weekend under orders from Manager Larry Bowa, did not take batting practice and took only a few swings off the batting tee before tossing his bat back into the rack Saturday night. Bowa said he would use Moreland as a pinch-hitter only if he was in a bind.