Ed Whitson said before the game that it would be nice to pitch against the Philadelphia Phillies without having to contend with the newly retired Mike Schmidt.
What the Padre veteran might have said is that it would be nice to pitch against the Phillies, period.
Even with Schmidt, who announced his retirement here Monday after 17-plus seasons in which he hit 548 home runs, the Phillies were an absolute disaster. Their pitching is so awful that Schmidt in his prime couldn’t have saved them.
So when Whitson took the mound at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium Tuesday night, all he needed for the 100th victory of his major league career was an average performance. He did better than that, pitching seven-hit ball for eight innings, and his teammates gave him an easy ride by burying the Phillies under a 9-3 score in front of 11,710.
Don Carman, a left-hander, lost little time showing why he had won only one game all season. He was driven to cover in a fifth-inning bombardment that staked Whitson to a 5-0 lead. Mike Maddux, Randy O’Neill and Alex Madrid were the other members of the Phillies’ woeful pitching staff who toiled, and only Maddux escaped punishment as Carman fell to 1-8.
Whitson’s victory was his sixth in a row and gave him an 8-2 record. It made him the second winningest pitcher in the National League, enabling him to break a tie with Mike Scott of the Houston Astros. He trails only Rick Reuschel of the San Francisco Giants, who has won nine games.
For six innings, Whitson was working on a four-hit shutout. By that time, the San Diego lead had mounted to 8-0, and he eased up to the extent of giving up home runs to Von Hayes and ex-Padre Dickie Thon. Greg Harris pitched the ninth and yielded a third homer, that by Curt Ford.
Whitson’s enjoyment of the balmy evening didn’t end with his pitching. He has blossomed into a halfway decent hitter lately, and he continued to be a two-way threat by singling twice in four times at bat.
The Padres’ unusually boisterous attack consisted of 14 hits all told, including three each by Bip Roberts and Roberto Alomar. They didn’t hit any home runs, but who cared?
In his pregame comment about Schmidt, Whitson said, “The Phillies won’t be the same without him. He always terrorized pitchers, and I contributed five or six home runs to his total. Once he hit two off me in one game, and we won, 4-2.
“But I didn’t mind his home runs so much. Every pitcher gave those up. He just out-and-out scared me, because he was so strong that if he ever hit me with a line drive, I’d be in serious trouble.”
After the game, Whitson said pitching coach Pat Dobson had told him to expect plenty of hitting support against the Phillies’ weak pitching.
Said Whitson: “Dobber said, ‘We’re going to get you some runs tonight. I can feel it.’ Once we got seven or eight, I thought, ‘Just throw strikes.’ I used all four of my pitches--fastball, curve, slider, palm ball. I threw the palm ball eight or nine times to a ground ball or a popout, until we got four or five runs ahead.”
Whitson then talked about the thrill of winning No. 100.
“I’m pretty tickled with this one,” he said. “I’ve been waiting a long time (he is 34.) I’m really going to cherish this one.”
Of his two hits, Whitson said, “You get lucky every now and then and get a base hit.”
Reminded that he hadn’t had just one hit but two, he said, “I’ll take them.”
Manager Jack McKeon said of the new ace of his pitching staff, “Whit has been consistent all year. He had good command, except for the home runs.”
In the loser’s quarters, Manager Nick Leyva said, “Whitson is 8-2. He’s a good pitcher. We hit some good balls off him, but he went out there and did what he had to do. He pitched well enough to win, and that’s the bottom line as far as I’m concerned.”
The hapless Carman said, “Other teams are making the games easy and I’m making them hard. Usually when I’m getting beat up I know why, but usually the stuff I had tonight gets people out.”
Leyva said of Carman, “I’m going to do something. Donny’s going out there every time and trying to pitch perfect. I’m thinking about taking him out of the rotation, only for his sake. I want him to know he doesn’t have to doubt himself.”
The Padre first inning provided a preview of things.
Roberts and Alomar greeted Carman with singles, and when Carman threw wildly on Tony Gwynn’s sacrifice bunt, the bases were loaded with nobody out. Roberts scored on Carman’s balk, after which the Padre offense subsided temporarily. Jack Clark struck out for the first of three times, and after Carmelo Martinez drew an intentional walk, Benito Santiago forced Alomar at the plate and Luis Salazar flied out.
Carman pitched beautifully for the next three innings. He even struck out Clark, Martinez and Santiago in order in the third. In the fifth, however, the same Padre threesome nicked him for successive hits that ran the score to 5-0. Carman invited trouble by walking Roberts and Gwynn, and doubles by Clark and Martinez and a single by Santiago drove home four runs.
An inning later, Whitson led off with his second single and raced home on Roberts’ triple. Alomar’s single and Gwynn’s double made it 8-0, and the Padres breezed in from there.
As a superstar himself, Tony Gwynn of the Padres can empathize with Mike Schmidt. Schmidt, who announced his retirement Monday after 17-plus seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies, hit 548 home runs, won 10 Gold Gloves as a third baseman and is cinch to be named to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “It made me think about my own situation,” Gwynn said Tuesday night. “I hope I get an opportunity to leave like he did, instead of getting traded a couple of times or being released. He had the privilege of being with the same team throughout his career, and that was great. I hope I’m that lucky.” Gwynn, who has won three National League batting championships and has played in four All-Star Games, has no immediate worries about following Schmidt out of baseball. He is only 29. “Seeing Mike in tears at his press conference brought tears to my eyes, too,” Gwynn said. “He made people realize that he’s an emotional guy and that this is an emotional game. Remember, too, that by retiring when he did, he turned down a lot of money. A lot of guys hang on beyond their time, and money is the biggest factor. Mike has so much pride that he couldn’t bear the thought of sticking around beyond his time.”
Denis Menke, a Philadelphia coach and a former major league third baseman himself, said of Schmidt: “I could see what was going through his mind the last few weeks. He started the season OK, but lately he wasn’t getting around on the ball. He was missing fastballs that he normally would crush. On top of that, he couldn’t get to some ground balls anymore, and his arm wasn’t what it used to be. He showed a lot of class in getting out when he did. The way he was playing, he felt he just had to hang it up.” . . . Padre Manager Jack McKeon called Schmidt ‘a credit to the game and to the Phillies, a sure Hall of Famer.” Then, looking at Schmidt’s retirement from a practical standpoint, McKeon said, “He sure put a lot of scares in me. I’m glad he decided to retire before they played us.”