Padres and Alomar End Slumps on the Same Swing
As far as the Padres were concerned, Roberto Alomar couldn’t have picked a better time to break out of his batting slump.
The Padres were locked in a 3-3 tie with the Philadelphia Phillies in the ninth inning Friday night, and they were badly in need of something positive after a four-game wipeout against the New York Mets.
With two out and Shane Mack on second base after having led off with a single, Alomar lined Kent Tekulve’s 2-0 pitch into right-center field for a single that gave the Padres a 4-3 victory.
A paid crowd of 10,208, swelled to 15,698 by a sizable group of underprivileged children who were admitted free, made enough noise for a full house at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium as Alomar broke up a duel between the National League’s last-place teams.
Although Alomar’s fielding has been sensational ever since he was called up from Las Vegas April 20, his hitting hit the skids three weeks ago. From May 7 until he went to bat in the ninth inning Friday night, he had had just 6 hits in 39 times at bat, a .154 pace that slashed his average to .215, and he had been given a rest Thursday.
Interestingly, though, Alomar’s one run batted in during his dry spell also was a game-winner. He had it against the Montreal Expos last Saturday night.
Before Alomar turned hero, he almost became a goat. In the top of the ninth, he dropped a throw from Mark Davis, the winning pitcher, on Steve Jeltz’s sacrifice, after Chris James had led off with a single. Pinch-hitter Luis Aguayo sacrificed the runners to second and third, but Davis struck out pinch-hitter Mike Young and retired Phil Bradley on a line drive to Mack in right field.
Mack then began the Padre ninth by greeting Tekulve, who is 41, with a single. Garry Templeton, who did not start while Dickie Thon played shortstop, sacrificed Mack to second. Thon struck out before Alomar delivered the game-ending hit.
Afterward, Alomar said, “I was worried about my error. It wasn’t a good throw. I didn’t expect it to be that low. After the third out, I was able to put it out of my mind.
“I didn’t feel pressure about my slump, but that hit makes me feel more happy. I saw Tekulve all the time when I was a kid. I know he throws a lot of sinker balls, and I wanted to make him bring the ball up.”
Asked if the ball he hit was high, Alomar said, “It didn’t sink. It stayed up over the plate.”
An inning before Alomar’s dramatics, the Padres seemed doomed to yet another tough defeat. Andy Hawkins had left after six innings with a 3-2 deficit. But Randy Ready created a 3-3 tie by opening the eighth with a home run off former Padre Greg Harris, who had replaced starter David Palmer, and Davis held on with his third scoreless inning of relief.
Padre Manager Larry Bowa was relieved to win a close game for a change.
“With all the frustration we’re going through, a win like this makes everybody in the organization feel like this is all worth something.
“I can understand what the fans are going through, but all I can tell them is that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Either you stick to your plan or change in midstream. But we’ve come this far, and that’s something. Those Phillies teams from 1970 to ’74 got the hell kicked out of them. I remember. I was one of those guys getting kicked.
“But tonight our kids put together a winning rally, and one of our veterans (Templeton) executed a play after sitting on the bench. That really helped us.”
Mike Schmidt produced two of the three Philadelphia runs with the 535th home run of his career and his fifth of the season. He hit it in the first inning, and with it broke a tie with Jimmie Foxx for eighth place on the all-time list.
Schmidt’s next target is Mickey Mantle, who hit 536 home runs. Schmidt hadn’t hit a home run since May 2, but facing a favorite patsy helped get him back on track. He entered the game with a .406 career average against Hawkins, including four homers, and lined Hawkins’ first pitch to him into the empty seats in the left-field lower deck. Milt Thompson, who had opened the game with a double, scored ahead of him.
The Padres immediately got one of the runs back but blew a chance for more. Thon and John Kruk walked, and Ready doubled in a run with one out. But Kruk was out at the plate on Benito Santiago’s bouncer to third base, and Keith Moreland continued his futility with men on base by flying out.
Palmer yielded only a walk to Kruk in the next three innings, but the Padres tied the score in the fifth. Mack drew a leadoff walk and went around the bases on singles by Thon and Kruk. This time, Ready ended the inning by striking out.
The Phillies wasted singles in the third, fourth and fifth before breaking through for the lead run in the sixth. A walk to Von Hayes and singles by Lance Parrish and Juan Samuel filled the bases with one out, and Hayes scored on James’ sacrifice fly.
By the end of the sixth, both starting pitchers were gone. With two out in the Padres’ half, Marvell Wynne tripled and Mack walked. At that point, Cy Young Award winner Steve Bedrosian, who had been out all season with pneumonia, replaced Palmer, and Randell Byers batted for Hawkins. Bedrosian retired Byers on a ground ball, then himself left for a pinch-hitter.
Harris breezed through the seventh before Ready pulled the Padres even with his leadoff home run in the eighth. An inning later, Alomar sent the fans home happy.
Somewhat obscured by all the talk about the Padres’ weak hitting has been the poor work of their middle relief pitchers. Keith Comstock, Greg Booker and Candy Sierra have been a three-man arson squad lately. Discussing this Friday night, Manager Larry Bowa said, “I’m very much concerned about it. We need more than one guy in that role, too. We need a couple of guys, and no one has done the job for us. We can’t keep using (Mark) Davis and (Lance) McCullers all the time. We’ll kill ‘em if we do. We’d like to get at least into the seventh inning, preferably the eighth, and these guys aren’t getting us there.”
Bowa hopes for some improvement when Dave Leiper returns from the disabled list, which may be as early as Sunday. Leiper, who has had tendinitis in his left shoulder, threw a three-inning simulated game Friday, and Bowa said, “He looked good. He had no pain. He’s eligible, so we’ll see.” Comstock, like Leiper a left-hander, is the pitcher most likely to go to the minors when Leiper returns.
Leiper, who also began the season on the disabled list, has not allowed a run in 4 innings in four appearances. Comstock’s earned-run average is 6.75, and Sierra’s is 6.52. Booker’s is only 3.00, but he has been ineffective when games were on the line. Because of their repeated failures, Bowa used Davis in the seventh inning Friday night although the Padres were a run behind at the time.
The Phillies, along with many other teams, have been in a hitting slump. Their only starter Friday night with an average over .248 was Von Hayes, who was hitting .285, and he had only one home run. But Bowa had no sympathy for his old team, which like San Diego is in last place. “They’ve got veterans not hitting,” Bowa said. “You know they’re going to hit eventually. We’ve got kids not hitting. That’s a lot different. You don’t know what kids are going to do.” . . . One of the Padre kids on the way up, shortstop Mike Brumley, stole three bases Thursday and has 18 for the season in triple-A Las Vegas . . . Outfielder Chris James of the Phillies was the victim of a freak accident during batting practice. Coach Del Unser was hitting ground balls to the infielders when a return throw caromed off his bat and struck James in the left eye. He was in pain for a few seconds, but no damage was done.