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Padres Pick Up Where Santiago Picks Off, 6-3

Times Staff Writer

“You know Benny can do it, you’ve seen him do it, everybody in the league has seen him do it,” Mark Davis was saying. “Yet every time he does it, it’s like, wow .”

The Padre reliever was talking about his catcher, Benito Santiago. And while one might debate parts of his statement, there could be no questioning Wednesday afternoon the part that goes “wow.”

In an eventual 6-3 victory over the New York Mets, at the start of a second-inning rally that could have sent the Padres out of town with three consecutive losses, Kevin McReynolds strayed a foot too far off second base. That’s all Santiago needs.

A foot. Or a flinch. Or a shoelace.

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“Give him an inch . . . " Tony Gwynn said.

And he’ll take a game. After a pitch, Santiago--from his knees--whizzed the ball back past the left ear of pitcher Andy Hawkins and to shortstop Garry Templeton, who caught it and tagged out McReynolds, tagged him with such alarming quickness that McReynolds never even had a chance to slide.

“Man was dead,” Templeton said. “A deeaad duck. I’ve never seen a man that dead.”

And the Padres were saved. Following McReynolds, who had opened the inning with a double, Howard Johnson singled. One out later, Dave Magadan walked. Pitcher Terry Leach doubled. Mookie Wilson doubled.

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In all, the Mets scored three runs that inning, giving them a 3-2 lead. But think what might have happened if McReynolds had stuck around.

“Benny saved me a run and got me a win,” Hawkins said plainly after improving to 13-10. “Was that throw big or what?”

The Padre hitters certainly thought so. Led by an RBI triple from Garry Templeton and RBI doubles by Santiago and Roberto Alomar, the Padres pounded Leach and Roger McDowell for 13 total hits and scored runs in each of four later innings to salvage this three-game series in front of 41,382 at Shea Stadium.

And this was one series in need of salvaging. After beginning the trip with 2 victories in 3 games in Montreal, the Padres came to town on Monday and were shut out, 6-0. On Tuesday, they were shut out, 1-0.

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“First time we scored today it was like, ‘Oh wow, we can still do that,’ ” said Gwynn, oddly one of only two Padre regulars to not get a hit.

Not could they still do that, they could still get hits when they counted; all four of their runs after that second inning came with two outs. And in the end, they proved there’s a reason that under Jack McKeon, the Padres have yet to be swept in a series or even lose more than three in a row.

“There was a lot of back-breaking innings out there that could have finished us,” Gwynn said. “But, hey, we have some character.”

And some arm. Some right arm. The arm belonging to Santiago.

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“I would like to have that arm for one day, just one day,” John Kruk said, pausing. “With my luck, we’d probably get rained out.”

The mere fact that Santiago picked off McReynolds is no big deal--he has picked runners off second five times this year, with seven pickoffs overall.

The fact that he did it from his knees does not shatter the earth either--he has thrown base-runners out 9 times in 15 attempts from his knees.

What made the Wednesday’s pickoff exceptional was, well, think about it. McReynolds did not slide. Imagine a boxer allowing himself to be knocked out without ever leaving his corner. McReynolds turned, saw Templeton with the ball and allowed himself to be tagged out.

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“Then he cursed,” Templeton said. “Stood there and cursed.”

Said a smiling Santiago: “I’m not really surprised, we had him by so much. He knew he was out, so there was nothing for him to do but quit.”

Afterward, as happens often, there was nothing for the Padres to do but marvel.

Said Tim Flannery: “I’ve already told Benny, if I’m on another team next year, he’s never throwing me out. Because once I get on a base with him catching, I’m not moving.”

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Said pitching coach Pat Dobson: “It’s fun to sit there in the dugout and give all these signs to the pitchers to hold the runners . . . and know they ain’t running anyway. In case you haven’t noticed, nobody runs against us anymore.”

The other exceptional thing about this pickoff was that Santiago said it wasn’t even his best. He said that came a couple of weeks ago against the Mets, when he picked Wally Backman off second base with one out in an inning in which he later would have scored. The final score of that one was 1-0, Padres.

“I like that better because Backman had to dive,” Santiago said. “This one here, it was not close, eh?”

Soon after, neither was the game. An inning later, Carmelo Martinez and Santiago doubled to tie it. Three innings after that, Keith Moreland and Santiago singled and Alomar doubled to give the Padres the lead for good.

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Hawkins appreciated the offense and settled down, not allowing a hit after Keith Hernandez’s leadoff single in the third. Mark Davis replaced Hawkins after a one-out walk to pinch-hitter Len Dykstra in the seventh and didn’t allow a hit the rest of the way, increasing his scoreless innings streak to 25. He already holds the consecutive scoreless inning record for Padre relievers and now is within range of the overall club record of 30 scoreless innings by another left-hander, Randy Jones in 1980.

“I’m guess I’m doing well--I even got booed out there today,” Davis said. “It sounded kind of nice. The only other place I’ve been booed was San Francisco, and I was pitching for them at the time.”

Padre Notes

The deadline for a player to be on a team’s roster if he is to be eligible for the playoffs passed Wednesday, with no Padre being traded to a pennant contenders. “We weren’t even close on anything,” Manager/General Manager Jack McKeon said. “As soon as everybody heard that I wasn’t interested in breaking up our pitching, they stopped calling. Different clubs put different worth on players, I guess. Maybe nobody thought anybody but our pitchers were worth having.” Oddly enough, the man most mentioned in trade rumors, Keith Moreland, used the day to break out of an 0 for 16 slump, going 2 for 5 with two runs scored. “I read a lot in the papers about how the what we were going to do, but that was just writers, none of it was true,” McKeon said. “I kept hearing how we were going to trade Eric Show to the Yankees; hey, the Yankees never even asked us about Show.” . . . Today is the first day of expanded rosters, when minor leaguers can be recalled to spend the final month of the season with the parent club. But the Padres won’t recall anyone until triple-A Las Vegas finishes with its playoffs, which begin Sept. 2 and could last until Sept. 13. At that point, the Padres would only have the players for 18 games. Although McKeon said he wasn’t sure there would be any players called up--"I’m not going to bring up anybody just to sit the bench, and I don’t know if we have room for any of them"--look for the Padres to keep this time-honored tradition alive with at least a couple of recalls, at least shortstop Mike Brumley (.317, 38 stolen bases) and first baseman Rob Nelson (23 homers, 76 RBIs). . . . McKeon was asked again Wednesday about Chris Brown, who supposedly is no longer injured but still puts a heavy wrap on his right ankle and does not appear ready to play. “He’s our secret weapon,”’ McKeon said. . . . Love You, Big Apple: Before Tuesday afternoon’s game, infielder Tim Flannery had his hair cut in a shop in the lobby of the club’s midtown Manhattan hotel. Cost? $36. “I looked at the guy and said, ‘Thirty-six bucks, you got to be kidding me!” said Flannery, whose hair is thinning anyway. “I’ve never paid that much for a haircut in my life. I told the guy, hey, at my age, half of my hair cuts itself.” . . . Love You, Big Apple II: Ed Whitson, never a popular player when he pitched in this city for the Yankees, was knocked off the bench Thursday when he was hit in the rear by a foul drive from Darryl Strawberry. The first-base box fans who saw him booed. But Whitson got them back. On the national cable television, he jokingly sprayed the rear of his pants with antiseptic.

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