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Padres’ BubbleBursts As Braves in 11th, 5-4

Times Staff Writer

They came out to see what all the commotion was about, 44,112 of them, the largest crowd since opening night. They came to catch the rise of this mysterious Padre bubble of success.

That stuff sticking to their clothes this morning is bits of that bubble.

In the most discouraging Padre loss in recent memory, the league’s best team since May 28 blew a 4-1, eighth-inning lead to the league’s worst team, and eventually lost to the Atlanta Braves, 5-4, in 11 innings Friday night.

Really folks, it isn’t always like this. Mark Davis doesn’t always enter a game in the eighth inning and allow a two-run single to a .229 hitter (Dale Murphy) and a game-tying RBI single to Andres Thomas.

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And Davis, in an 11th inning, will rarely allow a game-winning single to .244-hitting Ozzie Virgil. And shortstop Dickie Thon rarely throws a ball away that allows .146-hitting pinch-hitter Jim Morrison to reach second base and set up that hit.

And, seriously, the Braves almost never beat anybody when they trail after seven innings. In fact, they’ve now done it four out of 80 times this season.

But in front of a fireworks-and-Chicken-inspired throng, all of that happened Friday--and more--as the Padres lost for the second straight time and are in danger of ruining both a good home stand and home stretch.

“A lot of these people in the stands come to one or two games a year. You’d like to see us win on nights like this,” Davis said. “But I guess it can’t always happen.”

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And Davis can’t always be shutout-perfect, which he was in his previous 27 2/3 innings entering this game. And that wasn’t the only streak broken Friday. The Padres were 7-0 this season in front of home crowds of 30,000 paid or more. And they were 2-0 in extra inning games here.

Even Padre Manager Jack McKeon was hard pressed to recall a game like this.

“You know, I can’t remember the last time we have not held on to a lead, I really can’t,” McKeon said.

He’ll remember this one. The game was officially lost in the 11th when Morrison took first on a grounder deep in the hole between shortstop and third, and then took second when Thon threw the ball away. Virgil followed with a full-count single to close it.

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“They got hits on my good pitches,” Davis said, “and my bad ones.”

But the game was actually lost twice before that. The Padres had a chance to win it in the 10th when Keith Moreland led off with a single to left and was properly bunted to second by Benito Santiago. John Kruk was then intentionally walked, bringing up right-handed hitting Chris Brown to face righthander Jose Alvarez.

Brown, making his first start in 11 days and having already blown two plays in the field, fell behind two strikes and then weakly grounded the ball to shorstop and into a double play.

When asked about Brown afterward, McKeon fairly exploded. In defense of Brown.

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“You guys get on him every time he doesn’t play, and then when he plays you get on him for not taking advantage of it or whatever--and that irks me,” McKeon said. “He is part of the team, he’s no different than anybody else, and I’m going to keep running him out there. I’m even going to run him out there (tonight). Then maybe he’ll do something to keep everybody quiet.”

McKeon was perhaps most distressed at what happened to put the Padres in this mess, their eighth-inning collapse. With one out in the eighth, it had been going along so nicely. Starter Jimmy Jones had allowed just four hits, just two after the first inning, and had retired 20 of his last 23 batters. For the first time since July 19, and for only the third time this year, he was going to pitch a full nine innings.

Was is the operative word here.

First, Ron Gant doubled to left. And then a grounder by Jeff Blauser tipped off the glove of third baseman Brown for an error, moving Gant to third. Suddenly, McKeon had seen enough--not of Brown, but of Jones. Still working on a five-hitter, Jones was lifted for left-handed stopper Davis, whose first item of business was to retire left-handed hitting Gerald Perry.

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On a full count, Davis walked him. Then with the bases loaded and an 0-and-2 count on Murphy, he might as well have walked him.

Davis hung a curve that Murphy dumped into center field for a two-run single. Then, incredibly, Thomas dumped another 0-and-2 pitch into the outfield, this time right field, and this time scoring the tying run.

All of it ruined one of the Padres’ best at-bats this season, a Tony Gwunn single in the fourth that gave them the 4-1 lead in the first place. Sure, you’re thinking, aren’t most of Tony Gwynn’s bats great? How about this: an 0-and-2, two-out, two-run, one-footed single.

It all came about, with runners on second and third, because of the first pitch thrown by Braves pitcher German Jimenez, an inside fastball that Gwynn fouled directly off his right knee. Gwynn was later lifted for precautionary reasons with a sore knee.

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Padre Notes

Padre President Chub Feeney returned to San Diego Friday from the owners’ meetings in Montreal, his first appearance here since several reporters, columnists and broadcasters said he should retire.

Feeney graciously met with the media but provided no answers, only promises. “Give me a week, just give me a week,” Feeney said, and he later added, “There will be several announcements made for you next week.”

Because Feeney would not comment on Padre business--saying “We want everything done right, and you’ll hear about it after it happens"--one can only speculate about the nature of those announcements.

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Could Feeney really be retiring, as many have speculated? Will he be announcing the continuance of Jack McKeon’s role as manager and general manager? Will there be an announcement concerning the future of Tim Flannery, with whom the Padres hold a one-year option?

Feeney probably won’t be announcing the signing of any of the four Padre free agents, because he will not begin negotiating with any of their agents until next week.

“Whatever we’re going to do, we’re going to do it, and there’s no reason to take it to the press beforehand,” Feeney said. “The press has the advantage.”

When asked directly why he has declined to comment on his future here--sealed through 1990 only by verbal agreement--he said, “Would you talk if you were me? It’s a private matter, and we’ll decide it when we decide it.”

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He was then asked why owner Joan Kroc, whose comments could have cleared up all Feeney speculation, will not talk. “She’s a private person, she doesn’t want to get involved,” he said. “The bottom line is, we’re winning. When I came here we were (15-45), and since then we’re doing very well.” . . .

Tony Gwynn missed his fourth consecutive batting practice Friday because of his sore left hand, and it appears he will keep missing them. “You might as well not ask me the question anymore, because the answer is not going to change--it hurts too much to take batting practice, and it’s going to keep hurting,” Gwynn said. “Until something changes, I’m going to keep sitting batting practice out.” Of course, he’s also going to keep playing, which should probably earn him a medal before this is all over with. . . . Harry Dunlop, Padre director of minor-league instruction, met with McKeon before the game to discuss the state of affairs in the Padre farm system. Afterward, McKeon reiterated that the Padres would not recall any triple-A Las Vegas players until next week, upon the end of their involvement in the Pacific Coast League playoffs. But he said it has little to do with the fact that the organization doesn’t want to break up a possible championship minor league team. “I just don’t see where we need the extra players right now,” McKeon said. “I don’t think it would be fair to sit down any of the guys who have done it for us so far, just to give the kids a chance. I’ve got players here now who deserve to be playing more.” . . . And They Thought He Didn’t Notice Dept: Before batting practice earlier this week, McKeon walked to the end of the bench and made a big production of introducing himself to relievers Mark Grant, Greg Booker and Dave Leiper. At the time, Grant and Leiper hadn’t pitched in nine days, and Booker hadn’t pitched in 11. “I’m Jack McKeon, the manager,” McKeon said. Replied Leiper: “Oh, so you’re that short guy who sits down there on the end of the bench?” . . . Did anybody else notice starter Eric Show sitting in the left-field bullpen in San Francisco earlier this week? Turns out he sits there every trip in San Francisco because he finds the dugouts too crowded. Show’s opinion of the bullpen? “‘It’s an insane menagerie,” he said.


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