Whitson Gets a New Deal, Then Delivers
Now don’t get Ed Whitson wrong. He eminently enjoyed his three-day All-Star break. He went to the beach with his family, fished with his daughter and just had a good old time.
“My daughter even caught three fish, can you believe it?” Whitson said, boasting as if she had won the Nobel Prize. “I didn’t get so much as a nibble. That little girl can fish.”
But secretly, his heart and mind were 110 miles up the freeway in Anaheim, where the 60th All-Star game was being played. He wasn’t invited.
It wasn’t fair, he thought to himself. He had an 11-6 record. And not only was he pitching for a team with the second-worst offense in the league, but there were only three pitchers selected who had more victories.
If not for that bad outing July 4 against Chicago, when he lasted just four innings in his final start before the selections, he figures Dodger Manager Tommy Lasorda would have had to invite him.
Well, with that gnawing at his craw for the past week, guess who came into town Friday and felt the wrath of Whitson’s anger?
Whitson not only beat the Cubs with his arm Friday night but caused plenty of damage with his bat, leading the Padres to a 7-4 victory in front of 27,649 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
“A lot of times when you don’t get things that you deservedly should have,” Whitson said, “it adds fuel to the fire, gives you a little more motivation. It hurts when you don’t make it when you have a first half like I did.”
Of course, little did the Cubs know how poor their timing would be on this night. Whitson reached agreement in the afternoon on a two-year contract with a one-year option through 1992 that’s estimated to be worth at least $4 million.
“We got a pretty damn good pitcher for the next few years,” said Tony Siegle, the Padres’ vice president for player personnel. “Obviously, he could have become a free agent, and the way he’s pitching, you’d hate to think about what a 20-game winner would be worth on the market today.”
Whitson (12-6) is just two victories shy of equaling his career high set in 1984, and with the way he pitched Friday night, he indeed could be on his way of becoming the Padres’ first 20-game winner since Gaylord Perry in 1978.
Whitson struck out six without issuing a walk, and it wasn’t until the ninth when Padre Manager Jack McKeon even thought of going to his bullpen.
Whitson finally tired then, surrendering three consecutive hits without recording an out. Bullpen stopper Mark Davis entered the game and promptly gave up a run-scoring double to Mark Grace. But with runners on second and third, Davis ended the suspense by getting Damon Berryhill to pop up and striking out Vance Law and Shawon Dunston.
“We played tonight like we talked about how we’ve wanted to play all year,” McKeon said.
Said Whitson: “We were more aggressive tonight than we’ve been all year. Everything just seemed to fall into place.”
That is, of course, after Whitson set the stage.
With the Padres trailing, 2-1, in the fourth inning, Benito Santiago lined a single to center. Cub starter Mike Bielecki hardly was concerned. The next hitter was Whitson.
Whitson’s last hit was a month ago. His last RBI was 10 weeks ago. And the last time he rounded the bases on his own hit was sometime back when he was at Unicoi County High School in Erwin, Tenn.
Well, this same fella lined a double into the left-field corner. Left fielder Dwight Smith picked up the ball quickly and threw to Dunston, the cutoff man. Dunston, seeing that he had a play at the plate, fired toward home. The ball clipped the back of Santiago’s legs and trickled into the Padre dugout. Whitson, who was heading toward third, was awarded home by third-base umpire Jim Quick.
“Let me tell you,” Whitson said, “that was a long run. I was sucking air.”
Whether Whitson’s hit inspired his teammates or just plain embarrassed them, it certainly had some sort of effect.
There was the bottom of the Padres’ order, starting with a home run halfway up the right-field stands by Garry Templeton, scoring three runs in the fifth inning without even the aid of an error or wild pitch.
There was Jack Clark, throwing his bat at a pitch on a hit-and-run, driving in Bip Roberts in the sixth inning.
There was center fielder Marvell Wynne crashing into the outfield wall in the seventh while reaching out back-handed and snaring a line drive by Mark Grace.
There was left fielder Chris James, who had already obtained two hits and an RBI earlier in the game, gunning down Dunston in the eighth inning when he tried to stretch a single into a double.
Before the night was over, would you believe that the only Padre starter without a hit was Tony Gwynn?
“When Eddie got that hit, and the ball got away from the catcher, that gave us a big uplift,” Templeton said. “After that happened, we started playing the way we’re capable of.”
And for Whitson, it culminated a day that says he’ll forever treasure, a day that he says will assure him of wearing a Padre uniform until the day he retires.
“Signing the contract today, and having the win, that just put icing on the cake. A lot of people thought I was done. Well, I’m back.”
Padre pitcher Eric Show was examined by specialists Friday afternoon to determine the cause of his ailing back, which has prevented him from making a start since June 25. He pitched on the side Wednesday and, said Manager Jack McKeon, felt fine. But when he arrived at the ballpark Thursday, Show said he was experiencing spasms, and the Padres arranged an appointment Friday afternoon. Results of the tests were not immediately known, and Show is questionable for his scheduled start Monday against Pittsburgh. If Show is unable to start, McKeon said, Greg Harris, Fred Toliver or Pat Clements would likely take his place. “We’ll just have to see,” McKeon said. “Right now we want to have it checked out thoroughly. Hopefully he can pitch, if not, we’ll have to make adjustments.” . . . Reliever Dave Leiper, who went on the disabled list June 27 with a strained left elbow and was sent to Las Vegas for a 20-day rehabilitation assignment, says that he feels fine and is ready to rejoin the Padres. The rehabilitation assignment ends Sunday. If Leiper is recalled, as expected, he likely would take the place of Toliver, Clements or Show, if he goes on the disabled list. “All I know is that I’m ready, and anxious to get going again,” Leiper said.
First baseman Jack Clark, who aggravated his hamstring Thursday, was back in the lineup. “I just have to be conscious to get him (off the bases) when we’re in need of scoring a key run,” McKeon said. “I want to keep him in there, but not at the point of injuring him.” Said Clark: “I can still feel it every time I run. But I figure I might as well keep playing on it. Either it will slowly get better or it’ll just pop.”
Cub first baseman Mark Grace, the former San Diego State star, entered the game with a career .371 (23 for 62) average against the Padres. . . . Pitcher Andy Benes, who made his triple-A debut Thursday night in Las Vegas, says that he believes the effects of his shoulder tendinitis last month should benefit him in the long run. “At the beginning of the season, I was basically throwing just fastball after fastball and overpowering the other teams. When my arm didn’t feel as good, I found out more about myself as a pitcher because I had to mix it up more. I felt like that has really helped my breaking pitch and my changeup, and it’ll continue to do so.” . . . Las Vegas second baseman Joey Cora entered Friday’s game against the Edmonton Trappers with a 26-game hitting streak. . . . The Padres entered Friday’s game with just five RBIs in 100 at-bats from their pinch-hitters. . . . St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Scott Terry was moved up in the rotation and started Friday night against the Dodgers so he could miss the Padre series next weekend at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, where he hurt himself while pitching from the mound earlier this season. . . . The Padres will continue their four-game series against the Cubs with a 7:05 game tonight. Walt Terrell (4-12) and Paul Kilgus (5-8) are the scheduled starters. They’ll conclude the series at 1:05 Sunday with Dennis Rasmussen (3-6) and Rick Sutcliffe (10-6) as the probable starters.