Wynne Has a Grand Day As a Fill-In
For one day at least, Tony Gwynn wasn’t missed.
As usual, Marvell Wynne was a marvel as a fill-in when the injured Gwynn sat out the series finale against the Atlanta Braves Sunday at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Wynne’s first major league grand slam was the crowning blow of a seven-run second-inning outburst that gave the Padres an 8-2 victory and moved them into fourth place in the National League West.
Another big plus for the Padres in front of a paid crowd of 10,089 was the one-hit pitching of Dennis Rasmussen through seven innings. The veteran left-hander ran his record to 14-8, including an amazing 12-2 as a Padre, despite a blow on his left wrist that forced Manager Jack McKeon to entrust the finishing job to son-in-law Greg Booker.
Rasmussen allowed only a single by Lonnie Smith with two out in the fifth inning, and might have been permitted to go the distance if the game had been close. As it was, he pitched a perfect seventh inning after being hit by one of Chuck Cary’s pitches in the sixth. His injury was only superficial.
“It’s on the inside of the wrist, and it’s just a little swollen,” Rasmussen said. “I won’t miss a turn.”
Still, all the good news about the Padres was tainted by the gloom surrounding Gwynn and his sore left index finger. While McKeon downplayed the severity of the situation, Gwynn said it was conceivable that he would be out for the remaining three weeks of the season.
Gwynn had tendon surgery on the finger last winter, and it has been hurting since the All-Star break. He finally reached the point where he couldn’t grip a bat properly, so Wynne took his place in center field Sunday.
After the game, Gwynn said, “I’m kind of depressed. I’m not even taking batting practice until I can swing a bat right.”
Asked if there was any danger that he would be out for the season, Gwynn said, “I hope not. Right now, I’m trying to get some of the swelling down. I’d like to play again, but it doesn’t matter. I mean, I’m not going to be disappointed if I don’t swing a bat the rest of the year.”
Gwynn said the pain he was experiencing didn’t mean the surgery wasn’t a success.
“The operation did exactly what it was supposed to do,” he said. “The spot where the surgeon cut in is where I grip the bat, and that’s the problem. Last night (Saturday), I could feel the finger swelling while I was at bat.”
In any event, there is a strong likelihood of off-season surgery. Gwynn is certain that rest isn’t the total answer.
On that subject, McKeon said, “If that’s the case, I’d have it done as soon as possible, although there’s been no discussion on it up to this point.” McKeon insisted, however, that Gwynn’s return to the lineup was strictly a day-to-day proposition.
“He won’t play tomorrow night (Monday), but he could be in there the next night,” McKeon said.
McKeon added that he thought Gwynn returned to duty too soon after his operation. “My feeling at the time was that we were rushing him back too fast,” McKeon said. “He has such a great desire to play that he’s hard to keep out of the lineup.”
The one positive aspect of the day’s doings for Gwynn was that, even while idle, he climbed back into second place in defense of his league batting championship. He is listed in a tie with Rafael Palmeiro of the Chicago Cubs at .308, but if the averages are carried to four figures, he has a minuscule edge--.3084 to .3083.
Gwynn also gained two points on the leader, Gerald Perry of the Braves, who like Palmeiro went hitless in four times at bat. Perry’s average dropped to .312.
As for the game, the only question after the Padres erupted in the second inning was how close Rasmussen would come to a no-hitter. As it was, he said Smith had hit a good pitch for the spoiler, a line shot to left field.
“It was down and away,” Rasmussen said. “They ground out on those pitches lots of times, but he managed to get the bat head on it.”
Rasmussen might have had a tussle on his hands but for a freak occurrence that forced Atlanta Manager Russ Nixon to change starting pitchers.
Another of the Braves’ three Smiths, first name Pete (they also have pitcher Zane Smith), was scheduled to oppose Rasmussen, and he has been one of the league’s hottest pitchers lately. But overnight, Pete Smith had been bitten or stung by an insect or spider, and he was in no shape to pitch. His right eyelid and left hand were badly swollen.
As a result, Nixon had to call on Charlie Puleo, a journeyman right-hander who had made only two starts all season. The Padres disposed of him in a hurry.
Puleo invited trouble in the second by walking two batters and throwing wildly on Tim Flannery’s sacrifice, and the grateful Padres took it from there. Garry Templeton doubled in two runs, Roberto Alomar singled in another, and then Wynne drove Puleo’s first pitch over the right-field wall.
Suddenly the score was 7-0, and the game was as good as over. It was Wynne’s 11th home run of the year, and the second slam by a Padre. John Kruk hit the other on April 12 off Brad Havens, then of the Dodgers and now of the Cleveland Indians.
“That meant a lot to me,” Wynne said. “So many guys go their whole careers and never hit a grand slam. I just hope I can hit a few more in my career.”
Wynne’s 11 home runs give him second place on the team behind Carmelo Martinez’s 13. Interestingly, each of them has played only slightly more than half the time. Wynne has 275 at-bats, Martinez 285, and Gwynn leads the club with 467.
“You’ve got to be aggressive when you come off the bench,” Wynne said. “I go up there swinging. You can’t get anywhere taking pitches when you’re not playing every day.”
Of all the positives produced by the Padre pitching staff this season, pitching coach Pat Dobson rates Eric Show’s turnaround No. 1. Show has rebounded from an 8-16 season, the worst of his career, with a 13-11 record and a 3.20 earned-run average. In 210 innings, he has given up only 179 hits and has struck out 127 batters while walking only 48. Moreover, he has pitched a career-high 11 complete games. His best in six previous full seasons was five, in 1985 and 1987.