Dodgers’ West Title Quest Stalls After Mets Make the East Official : Kruk’s Injury Inspires Padres; Martinez’s Homer Wins It, 5-4
It was just John Kruk who ran into Dodger catcher Mike Scioscia. It was just John Kruk who was carried from the field and taken to the hospital with a gash in his knee and a long winter ahead. It just one guy, just John Kruk.
But as it turns out, it might as well have been every Padre.
Inspired by an accident that they felt was a result of Scioscia unfairly blocking home plate, the Padres followed one crash with a bigger one Thursday, coming back from 3-0 deficit to defeat the likely West Division champion Dodgers, 5-4, in front of a paid crowd of 30,074 at Dodger Stadium.
They finished a dismal trip by taking 2 of 3 from the Dodgers and head home for the final six home games of the year with hopes of salavaging a .500 season (they are 75-77).
“This was it, this was a great way to send us home and get us going through the final days,” Tony Gwynn said. “This brought fire back into our eyes.”
Appropriately, the hero was Kruk’s replacment, outfielder Carmelo Martinez, who hit two home runs, including the game-winner off reliever Alejandro Pena in the eighth. The other hero was starter Eric Show, who calmed after the three first-inning runs and allowed just one the rest of the way in improving his record to 15-11.
But the way Manager Jack McKeon tells it, as soon as Kruk went down in the second inning with strained ligaments and lacerations in his left knee from the home-plate collision with Scioscia, all the Padres got into the act.
“I want to thank Mike Scioscia for waking us up,” McKeon said sharply. “He did us a big favor. All of us used that as inspiration.”
Particularly Martinez, who replaced Kruk in the second inning with the Padres down, 3-1, after they fell behind, 3-0, in the first. He put them ahead, 4-3, with a leadoff homer in the sixth off starter Tim Leary. Then, after the Dodgers tied it at 4-all in the seventh with a John Shelby homer off Show, Martinez won it a eighth-inning home run. Martinez, who entered the game in a 1-for-17 slump, came out with a team-leading 17 homers. His former outfield and first base counterpart was not so lucky.
Kruk’s fitful season likely came to an end on a collision that sent him to nearby Centinela Hospital for the night.
Scioscia was not unscathed--he left the game with a contusion on his left hip--but he will return. Kruk, whose season would have ended in disappointment even if he had walked away from it, probably will not collide with anyone again until spring trianing.
It happened with one out in the second. Kruk singled to left, just his sixth hit in his ast 45 at-bats. The ball skipped under the glove of right fielder Mike Marshall and Kruk fairly skipped into third base on the error.
Benito Santiago then lifted a fly ball to Marshall. Intent on making up for the blunder, Marshall caught the ball and make a perfect throw home as Kruk tagged up and steamed toward the plate.
Kruk arrived there just before the ball, but Scioscia--baseball’s most immovable object--was already planted and waiting. Kruk crashed into him, but Scioscia didn’t move. Kruk simply fell over him and on to the plate just ahead of the tag. The run scored but, as everyone realized as soon as Kruk crumpled while trying to walk back to the dugout that the damage had been done. He was helped from the field by teammates and later transported to the hospital.
“You cannot block the plate without the ball like that--Scioscia always does it, but it’s against the rules,” McKeon said. “And look what happened to him. It wasn’t a very smart chance to take with his team fighting for a pennant.”
When Kruk wakes up today, his final numbers will feel about as good as the knee. After hitting .313 last season with a team-leading 20 homers and 91 RBIs, this year he finished at .241 with 9 homers and 44 RBIs. In the final weeks, his weight ballooned (to around 215 pounds) and, he admitted, his attitude soured. Few players have fallen so hard from last season to now.
Appropriately, the game began with a bang. In the top of the first against Show, the Dodgers scored three runs in four hitters thanks to a a couple of singles, a fly bal, and two-run homer by Marshall, his 20th and second in two nights.
But Show, who entered with a record against the Dodgers this season of 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA, settled down calmed. Of the next 18 hitters, just three reached base, on two singles and a double, and only one advanced as far as third. That happened with one out in the sixth, when Steve Sax hustled out a doubled to left field and moved to third on Santiago’s passed ball. But then Show struck out Kirk Gibson and retired Marshall on a slow grounded to first to end things. During that 18-batter stretch, Show struck out a total of six.
Show made his next mistake of the game in the seventh, when Shelby put an elevated 3-and-1 pitch out of the park for his ninth homer, giving the Dodgers a 4-all tie. But again Show didn’t let it bother him. After Franklin Stubbs followed with an infield single, Show retired the next three hitters.
The Padre offense, combined with a sorry Dodger defense, used Show as inspiration to fight back against Dodger starter Tim Leary.
They scored an unearned run in the second inning thanks to Marshall’s two-base error that eventually allowed Kruk to score. They scored another run in the third after Martinez singled and went to second on third baseman Jeff Hamilton’s throwing error, later scoring on Marvell Wynne’s single.
Two innings later, Martinez hit his first homer, on an 0-and-1 pitch from Leary. And then two innings after that, with two out in the eight, he hit his second homer. His 17 homers is the second highest total of his career, as he hit 21 in 1985. He also has 60 RBIs.
In the latest from the Padre free-agent negotiation front, a reconciliation meeting has been planned for early next week between agent Jerry Kapstein and Padre President Chub Feeney. You’ll remember that Kapstein, who represents possible free agent Andy Hawkins, engaged in a shouting match with Feeney last week and they haven’t talked since. Feeney will also meet next Thursday with Steve Greenberg, the agent for the other possible Padre free agent pitcher Eric Show. Because of personal problems, Feeney had canceled a meeting with Greenberg this week. But Show will be on the road with the Padres, who fly to Houston that day for the final series of the season. Any agreement that comes from it would have to be handled over the telephone.. . . Greg Booker’s fine start in in Tuesday’s late 6-5 Padre loss--1 run in 6 innings--opened eyes and will maybe open doors. “He showed me a lot, he showed all of us a lot,” Manager Jack McKeon said. “He gave us something to think about.” Depending on what the Padres do to their starting rotation this winter, if Booker is not traded by next spring he could have earned a shot at being the No. 5 man. “That’s a role I have been envisioning for him for a while,” pitching coach Pat Dobson said. “Sure,” Booker said, “I’d love to start. I’ll do anything.” . . . Many have said that McKeon doesn’t know the meaning of the word negative. Well, here is another word for which he obviously doesn’t know the meaning--vacation. Immediately after the season, McKeon, who deserves some sort of rest, is just getting started. First he is flying to Japan. Why? To watch baseball. Isn’t that why every other American goes there?