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Hurst Is at His Best, Fires 1-Hitter Against Atlanta : Padres Hit Three Home Runs in 5-2 Victory

The Padres came home Monday, ready to make a statement.

So they trotted out Bruce Hurst and his 12.60 earned-run average to the mound, figuring that, at the very least, things couldn’t be as awful as Hurst’s first Padre start.

They weren’t. Hurst answered with his first one-hitter, setting down the final 19 Atlanta batters in order, and Tony Gwynn, Carmelo Martinez and Garry Templeton each hit home runs to give the Padres a 5-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves and a healthy dose of optimism.

If Hurst was judged by the numbers after his first Padre start--an 8-3 loss to San Francisco in which he allowed nine hits and five runs in five innings--it’s only fair to hang up the numbers of his second start:

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Nine innings, two runs, one hit and 13 strikeouts--one fewer than his career high. Of 100 pitches, 72 were strikes.

The Padres got behind early when Hurst threw a mistake to Lonnie Smith--after walking pitcher Pete Smith--in the third, and Smith hit it out. But the Padres mounted a four-run rally in the sixth with home runs from Martinez and Templeton to give them two come-from-behind victories in two days.

Statement made.

“I wanted to go out there and concentrate on (catcher Benito Santiago’s) glove,” Hurst said. “I had a better idea tonight of what I wanted to do. I was much better prepared. I spent the whole week making sure I was in the right frame of mind.”

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Hurst used a snappy forkball, a pretty good fastball and a sharp curve to keep Atlanta off balance in every inning. And had he not hung a slider to Smith in the third, he might have had his first no-hitter.

The Braves entered the game batting just .254, but that didn’t matter to Atlanta Manager Russ Nixon.

“A guy who goes out and pitches that kind of game, I don’t (care) who’s in the lineup against him,” Nixon said. “Give him some credit.”

Hurst quickly settled into a groove. The game’s first batter, Lonnie Smith, flied deep to left, and Jeff Blauser, the second batter, sent Gwynn to the warning track in center field to chase down the second out.

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But after escaping damage in the first, Hurst blazed through the second. He struck out Dale Murphy, Jody Davis and Ron Gant.

But with two out in the third, pitcher Pete Smith walked, and left fielder Lonnie Smith followed by hitting a Hurst delivery even harder than he had in the first. Smith, who had a lifetime .333 (six for 18) batting average against Hurst, pulled a pitch into the left-field seats to givet the Braves a 2-0 lead.

It was like throwing a juicy bone to a starving dog. Atlanta would get no more.

“He can throw every pitch for a strike,” Atlanta shortstop Andres Thomas said. “He throws all of his pitches anytime. You don’t know what to expect. I still don’t know what his best pitch is.”

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Said Murphy: “If you throw it where you want to throw it, nobody’s going to hit it.”

Pete Smith matched Hurst for the first three innings, allowing two hits but no runs. The Padres got one back in the fourth when Gwynn led off by driving a pitch over the right-field wall--the first home run Smith had allowed in 61 innings.

It was a preview of the sixth, when San Diego drove Smith from the game. Jack Clark singled to left, John Kruk followed with a single to left--his first hit of the season--and Carmelo Martinez homered to left.

Martinez’s homer, which came after the bunt signal was on for the first three pitches, was long overdue. He led the team with six homers and 17 RBIs in spring training, but stepped up to the plate in the sixth batting just .100.

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“I wasn’t swinging at bad pitches tonight,” Martinez said. “I overswung only two times. In the other games this year, I was overswinging all the time. I’ve been trying too hard, but I took some extra batting practice today and was more relaxed.”

After Santiago flied to left, Templeton drove another Smith offering over the right-field fence. Smith then gave way to Jim Acker.

Almost lost in the excitement was Hurst’s first major league hit, which came in the fifth. Hurst lined a two-and-one count into left field.

This victory, added to a comeback victory and triple play Sunday in Houston, wiped out some lingering memories of a disappointing season-opening series with San Francisco.

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“We’re picking up a little steam,” Templeton said. “We had a good spring training, but ran into a hot San Francisco team at the beginning of the season. They swung the bat well, their pitching was good and their defense was good. We were lucky to win one of those three games.”

Six games remain on the current home stand--three more with Atlanta and then three against Cincinnati.

“The seven days at home will do us some good,” Templeton said. “Since March, we’ve been doing a lot of traveling.”

Padre Notes

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Injured right-handed reliever Greg Harris threw on the side Monday for about 10 minutes, feeling just a “small pinch” underneath his left rib cage. According to Harris, the injury, which occurred in the eighth inning Wednesday against San Francisco, still has not been diagnosed. “It’s day-to-day,” Harris said. Padre Manager Jack McKeon, though, said day-to-day means he can pitch anytime. “He’s available,” McKeon said. “Just like any of our other relievers. If I need him, I’ll use him.” Harris said he would throw on the side again today. “It may not hurt at all,” he said. “I’m praying it won’t. Right now, it just hurts when I put a lot of force on it. I can throw half-speed or three-quarters speed.” In two appearances this season, Harris has allowed just two hits and no runs in 2 2/3 innings.

Catcher Benito Santiago took extra batting practice off a batting tee before Monday’s game. “I’ve been swinging all right, but I went for a couple of inside pitches in Houston,” Santiago said. “They were getting me out with that pitch.” So Santiago was standing close to the batting tee and working on hitting the ball down on the bat handle. . . .

Pitcher Andy Benes, the No. 1 draft pick in the nation last June, won his pro debut Sunday for Wichita (double A). He went seven innings, allowing five hits and one run. He threw 103 pitches, walking two and striking out 10.

Life has returned to normal, relatively speaking, for Luis Salazar’s wife, Graciela, 9-year-old son, Carlos, and 6-year-old daughter, Vivana. Three weeks ago, they joined Luis at the Detroit Tigers’ spring training site in Lakeland, Fla., when rioting in Venezuela caused schools to close for a week. The trio returned to Venezuela two weeks ago when Salazar was traded to the Padres. “Everything is straight in Venezuela now,” said Salazar, who talks with his family every other day. His wife and kids will rejoin him when school finishes at the end of May.

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