While the rest of the Padres were trudging into the clubhouse underneath Shea Stadium late Saturday afternoon, one rookie was just leaving.
In stocking feet, wearing a T-shirt and unbuttoned uniform pants and a face that seemed to drop to his knees, Greg Harris was heading down the hallway to the bullpen. He already had been there once, warming up before entering in the seventh inning of a 3-all tie between the Padres and the New York Mets.
That had been an hour and 4 2/3 innings ago. He had retired the first nine Mets batters he faced. He retired 12 of the first 13.
But he had gone one batter too long. With two outs and the bases loaded in the 11th, pinch-hitter Dave Magadan bounced a ball up the middle, and Harris’ beauty turned bad as the Padres lost, 4-3, in front of a paid sellout crowd of 46,484 at Shea Stadium.
And so afterward, Harris had to rush out of the clubhouse.
“I didn’t want to say anything I didn’t mean, or do anything I shouldn’t do,” Harris said. “So I had to get outside and find a place to be alone.”
And think about?
“I thought, ‘It’s OK, the sun will still come up tomorrow morning,’ ” Harris said. “Hopefully.”
When it does, the Padres will be back at their season low point of two games under .500 (18-20). They likely will have forgotten that they came back against Met starter David Cone Saturday much the way they came back against Dwight Gooden Friday, this time scoring two runs in the seventh to pull into a 3-all tie.
And they will be left with an impressionable young pitcher who has been bruised.
Harris was wonderful for four innings, double his previous single-game workload. But with no help coming from anyone else in the bullpen--while Harris pitched, there was nobody even warming up--the Padre bosses asked him to go one more inning. And in that inning, he crashed and burned.
Kevin McReynolds led off the 11th with a grounder that snuck through to left for a single. Lenny Dykstra then hit a grounder to second baseman Roberto Alomar for an apparent double play, but McReynolds charged hard into Garry Templeton at second and knocked him off balance enough so Templeton couldn’t make a throw.
With Dykstra on first, Howard Johnson hit a pop foul to third baseman Luis Salazar for the second out, but then Keith Hernandez looped a one-and-one curveball to right for a single that moved Dykstra to third. Darryl Strawberry was intentionally walked, bringing up Magadan hitting for pitcher Randy Myers. Magadan was batting .189 and had gone zero for four as a pinch-hitter.
Harris jumped ahead zero and two but then threw two balls and finally came in with a curve that Magadan brushed up the middle, sending the ball bouncing over second base and into center field to score the winning run.
“A disappointment, such a great disappointment,” Harris said. “It’s hard to swallow. Bases loaded, two out, ball up the middle . . . it sort of hurts.”
One reason, said Tony Gwynn, was that the fielders maybe should have been in a position to catch a ball hit up the middle.
“Magadan ain’t a pull hitter, but we are playing him to pull (Alomar was shaded toward first base),” Gwynn said. “Every time I remember him, he hits the ball the other way. It was a bad play on our part.”
Said Alomar: “We were just playing him a step to pull. Even if I was playing him regular, I couldn’t have made a play on that ball.”
But the main reason the loss hurt the Padres was that Harris had to be left in the game to absorb it, even though he had thrown 1 2/3 innings Friday night and another inning Thursday in St. Louis.
Granted, the Padres have consistently kept stopper Mark Davis in his warmup jacket unless the team has the lead, and they already had used Dave Leiper for an inning Saturday. But what about Mark Grant or Greg Booker? They were physically ready?
“You have to consider your options,” pitching coach Pat Dobson said. “Grant had just pitched five innings the other night (he threw 54 pitches Thursday afternoon), and that meant Booker was the only one left. And Jack (McKeon, the manager) is hesitant to use Booker in close games.”
So that left Harris, which many in the clubhouse thought wasn’t such a terrible idea.
“The kid was pitching super, heck, he was getting everybody out,” McKeon said of Harris, who now has the contradictory record of 0-2 with a 1.20 ERA. “What did you want me to do? They finally got a couple of seeing-eye hits. That’s what the game is all about.”
At one point this game had all the looks of a Padre confidence-builder.
After they fell behind, 3-1, against Cone--who is 4-0 lifetime against the Padres--they came back in the seventh with a rally that mirrored Friday night’s ninth-inning rally in ways both good and bad.
With one out in the seventh, Rob Nelson punched a single to right. One out later, Salazar knocked a line drive to center, bringing up catcher Benito Santiago, who had already singled home the Padres’ first and only run in the second.
Santiago ripped Cone’s third pitch, driving it to left to score Nelson and move Salazar to second. Santiago, whose ninth-inning single tied Friday’s game, is now three for his last six with three RBIs.
Three pitches later, facing a zero-and-two count, Templeton was equally as heroic, fighting off a curveball and knocking it to center to score Salazar with another run. This knocked out Cone, who before the seventh had allowed the Padres two runs in his previous 30 1/3 innings.
Of course, no good Padre inning this year has been complete without something awful happening, and so it was in the seventh. With Santiago on third and Templeton on second, up stepped pinch-hitter Carmelo Martinez to face reliever Don Aase. Martinez had been four for 31 with runners in scoring position this year; he grounded into a double play with runners on first and third in the ninth inning of a tie game Friday night.
This morning he is four for 32 (.125) after leaving Santiago and Templeton stranded by looking at a third strike. And that was pretty much the Padres’ story the rest of the game. They managed only a single by Bip Roberts in the final four innings against Aase and, later, winning pitcher Randy Myers.
“It’s a shame,” McKeon said. “A real shame.”
The Padres have witnessed what may have been a major breakthrough in their hopes of acquiring a top player for minor league catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. On Friday, the Mets placed catcher Gary Carter on the 15-day disabled list with an inflamed right knee. This likely means Carter, 35, is on his last legs. He was only hitting .114, with one homer and five RBIs in 23 games. What does this have to do with Alomar Jr.? Well, Carter’s replacement Friday, backup Barry Lyons, had just a terrible game in the Padres’ 4-3 victory. There was a throwing error, two dropped pop fouls and three missed Dwight Gooden pitches that were ruled wild pitches. Lyons played so bad that Saturday’s starter was one-year veteran Mackey Sasser, who had a homer and two RBIs but also watched two Padres steal on him. Enter Alomar Jr., currently of the Las Vegas Stars, a guy the Mets should know well considering top scout Darrell Johnson has been visiting him in the Pacific Coast League. Alomar entered this weekend hitting .299 with two homers, seven doubles and 16 RBIs in 28 games. Tony Siegle, the Padres’ vice president for player personnel, is in New York with the Padres and said that, while he has has only met “socially” with the Mets front office folks, convenient trade talks are not out of the question. Said Manager Jack McKeon, who met Saturday with Mets General Manager Frank Cashen: “Sure, (Carter’s injury) puts us in a better position to deal with them, but they are going to have to give up something worthwhile. But hey, it’s always possible, they know where we are.” McKeon also said he has placed the Padres back in the race for Seattle pitcher Mark Langston by calling Seattle General Manager Woody Woodward last week. This deal could involve Padre catcher Benito Santiago or pitcher Eric Show, both of whom Seattle covets.
Quietly frustrated Saturday was Jack Clark, who was removed from the game in the eighth inning for pinch-runner Bip Roberts, then watched as Roberts was thrown out attempting to steal second. Clark was forced to sit the bench for the game’s final three innings, costing him an at-bat and a shot to take hard-throwing reliever Randy Myers deep. “I had to make the switch, you have to go for the win in nine innings,” said McKeon, who pulled Clark after he had walked with two out and nobody on. “We were hoping Roberts would steal second, and then Rob Nelson would hit the ball somewhere, and we’d get a run.” Said Clark, who is hitting just .190: “I’m not playing well enough to question it. Sure, guys like to have their full shots, all their at-bats. But until I start hitting better, I’m in no position to say anything about taking me out.”
PADRES AT A GLANCEScorecard
Padres--With one out, Alomar walked and stole second. Salazar flied to left. Santiago singled to left, Alomar scoring. Santiago stole second. Templeton struck out. One run, one hit, one left.
Mets--With one out, Mazzilli walked. Jefferies singled to right, Mazzilli taking third. Sasser doubled to left, Mazzilli scoring, Jefferies stopping at third. Elster flied to right, Jefferies scoring. Cone grounded to second. Two runs, two hits, one left.
Mets--With two outs, Sasser homered to left, his first. Elster struck out. One run, one hit.
Padres--With one out, Nelson singled to right. Alomar flied to left. Salazar singled to center, Nelson stopping at second. Santiago singled to left, Nelson scoring, Salazar stopping at second. Templeton singled to center, Salazar scoring, Santiago taking third and Templeton taking second on center fielder Dykstra’s fielding error. Aase relieved Cone. Martinez, batting for Leiper, struck out. Two runs, four hits, one error, two left.
Mets--McReynolds singled to left. Dykstra forced McReynolds. Johnson flied to third. Hernandez singled to right, Dykstra taking third. Strawberry was intentionally walked. Magadan, batting for Myers, singled to center, Dykstra scoring. One run, three hits, three left.