First the good news: The Padres squandered only one scoring opportunity in Wednesday night's game against the Cardinals.
Now the bad: The Padres only had two threats against Joe Magrane, grounding into a season-high four double plays and getting a season-low two hits as they lost, 3-1.
"It was much of the same," Manager Jack McKeon said. "We didn't hit the ball hard. You can talk about all that extra hitting and all that baloney, but I think it's overrated.
"The way we're hitting now, we'd have to gear up for the Riverside staff," he added, referring to the Padres' Class A affiliate.
Magrane held the Padres without a hit for 6 1/3 innings and survived a shaky second inning that might have turned the game around.
After issuing two walks in the inning, Magrane had a 3-0 count on Benito Santiago. But Santiago had the green light and swung at what appeared to be ball four, grounding into a double play to end the inning instead of loading the bases with one out.
"I just thought he might get lucky and get a good pitch and drill it," McKeon said. "We've got to do something to figure out how to get somebody to get lucky and come through in one of those situations."
Tony Gwynn knew as soon as that would-be scoring threat was squelched that the Padres were in trouble again.
"He (Magrane) was wild," Gwynn said. "He was having trouble throwing strikes. There was somebody up in the bullpen, things were starting to happen. If he would have walked another batter or two, something might have happened."
But instead came the double play, and the Padres didn't get another runner to second until the seventh. They hit just two balls out of the infield in the first six innings.
Gwynn opened the seventh with a shot into the hole at shortstop; it was ruled an error when Ozzie Smith's throw pulled Pedro Guerrero off the base, but replays showed Gwynn would have beaten the play anyway.
After Jack Clark struck out, Carmelo Martinez got the Padres' first official hit, lining a double inside the third-base line to score Gwynn. The rally, which tied the game, 1-1, quickly died when Jerald Clark struck out and Santiago grounded out.
The tie was short-lived. Milt Thompson opened the bottom of the inning against starter Walt Terrell with a single to right and came home on Tom Brunansky's homer over the left-field wall. It was the fourth of the year for Brunansky, who hit six against the Padres last year, his most off any club.
That hit, combined with a fourth-inning triple by Terry Pendleton and a sacrifice fly by Pedro Guerrero, was all Magrane needed until the ninth, when he got last-out help from Todd Worrell. Magrane--who struck out a career-high eight--allowed the Padres' second hit, a two-out single by Jack Clark, before Worrell came on to strike out pinch-hitter Marvell Wynne to end the game.
"He's a good pitcher," McKeon said of Magrane. "But our hitters are better than what they're showing. When clubs go into a spell where they can't hit their weight for a week or so, their opponents can dominate them. They (the Cardinals) are leading the league in hitting, but they're not really bashing us."
Terrell (3-4) allowed six hits in seven innings but blamed himself instead of the Padres' offense for the loss.
"I made two mistakes late in the game, and that cost me," Terrell said. "He (Brunansky) hit the same pitch I'd thrown him two times before. Maybe I went to the well once too often."
While Terrell had a possible reason for what he did wrong, McKeon is still searching for the right solution to the Padres' hitting problem.
His newest idea is no batting practice before today's game against the Cardinals.
"We'll hit when the game starts," McKeon said. "I think our guys hit so damn much that when the game starts, they can't lift a bat.
"We'll just have to reach into our bag of tricks tomorrow and see what we can come up with."
The bad news for McKeon and the Padres is that they will be trying to break out the next three games against pitchers who have a combined record of 13-5--Jose DeLeon of the Cardinals and Dwight Gooden and David Cone of the Mets.
All McKeon said he can really do is wait, something he has been doing all year.
"That's about all you can do," he said. "You just have to wait for somebody to get hot and catch fire. We've been down this road before."
McKeon has made it no secret that he is looking for anybody to make the most of the opportunity he is giving them. Jerald Clark started his third consecutive game since being recalled from Las Vegas, and Rob Nelson, also recalled Sunday, will play again today, McKeon said.
"Somebody's got to jump it and take that opportunity," McKeon said. "Go to it, guys. As Charley Finley used to say, when opportunity knocks, open the door. We've got guys who want to be everyday players, there it is, do it."
McKeon said the biggest problem is that the Padres are not being smart hitters, failing to make adjustments that mean the difference between getting a hit or making an out.
"I've just got to keep running them out there," he said. "One of these days it will start. I hope it's soon. We used to say hold them (the opponents) to three runs, and we'll win. Now we have to try to hold them to one."
Gwynn--who grounded into two of the double plays--agreed.
"Sometimes you just try to do too much, like hit an eight-run homer with nobody on," Gwynn said. "It's frustrating for all of us. There just isn't a guy on the team who's swinging the bat well right now."
If there is any good news to come out of all of this, McKeon knows that despite the Padres' poor play and 17-18 record, they are still just two games out of first.
"Despite all of the things that are going against us, we're still right there," McKeon said. "I know our guys are capable of doing it, but when?"
There were changes in the Padres' lineup Wednesday night. Catcher Benito Santiago, after missing three consecutive games, was back, and third baseman Randy Ready made his first start since April 29. Carmelo Martinez made his third start of the year at first, and Jack Clark made his third consecutive start in right. Rob Nelson, who started at first for two games after being recalled from Las Vegas Saturday (going one for five) was on the bench. . . . Tony Gwynn is the only Padre to start all 35 games this season. . . . Clark, who spent three years in St. Louis with the Cardinals, was besieged by calls during his first trip back to the city since 1987, but surprisingly few people asked for free tickets. "They just called to say hello," said Clark, who estimated he got about 40 calls, including some from media members. "That just shows what type of relationship we had in our community here. It was more than just baseball. There is life other than baseball." . . . Eric Show (4-3) will try to stop a two-game losing streak in the finale of the three-game series today at 10:35 a.m. (PDT). He will be opposed by Jose DeLeon (5-2), who was knocked out by the Giants in the second inning of his last start Saturday. The last time DeLeon faced the Padres, he shut them out, 6-0, on six hits and struck out eight. . . . From St. Louis, the Padres will head to New York for three games over the weekend and then travel to Montreal and Philadelphia for three games each before returning home.