Somewhere in the stands at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, a little girl watched Jack Clark step up to the plate with two on and two out in the third inning Monday night.
Quickly, it would become apparent that this wasn't your normal night. As Mandi was being taken up the ramp leading to the field, she was stopped by Clark. He hugged her and then made a promise. He promised her a home run.
So in the third inning, with Mandi and 11,274 others looking on, he kept that promise. He picked out Kevin Gross' third pitch and deposited it into the left-field seats.
The Padres won their fifth game in a row, 9-4, and that wasn't all from Clark. He hit another three-run homer--this one even deeper to left-center--in the fifth, and in the eighth Mike Pagliarulo hit the Padres' third three-run homer.
It was Clark's first homer, though, that sent Roy Rutherford, Mandi's father, scrambling to find Padre President Dick Freeman. He delivered a note to Freeman explaining what had happened.
Said Clark: "She was so cute I couldn't help but sit down and want to give her a big hug. We just happened to cross paths."
So Clark stopped for a minute.
"She just said, 'Hit me a home run,' " Clark said. "I was like, 'Yeah. Right. Sure.' The way I've been hitting lately, and with a guy like Gross, who I've never hit one off of.
"It was enough of a distraction. It made me concentrate better."
Clark's best shot of the night didn't even count. It was a long foul that was hit halfway up the second level down the left-field line. It came just before his second home run.
"I told Jack, 'You can add all my hits together the last 10 years and they don't add up to the three that (you) hit out,' " Tim Flannery said.
Clark finished with six runs batted in, a feat he has accomplished just three times in his 13-year major league career. He now has 20 homers.
Career days are the norm for the Padres these days. Against the New York Mets Sunday, second baseman Roberto Alomar had a career-high five RBIs. Saturday, Marvell Wynne had four RBIs, which tied for the most in his career.
And on a smaller scope, Padre starter Andy Benes struck out eight Monday, which was also a career high. Of course, Benes (2-2) made just the fourth start of his career, but the Padres are happy with his development. He went 6 2/3 innings Monday, giving up four runs and five hits. For the first time, Benes didn't allow a home run--the only extra-base hit he allowed was Hubie Brooks' fourth-inning double. A positive was his eight strikeouts. A negative was his five walks.
"He had pretty good stuff," McKeon said. "He started aiming a bit, but when he needed the outs, he got them."
Said Benes: "I felt like I had a better fastball than I've had tonight. The only thing I was disappointed in was that I walked five guys, and three scored."
As for the winning streak, the Padres have outscored their opposition, 43-21, in the last five games. In the last three games, the Padres have flexed their offense for 31 runs.
They have now hit homers in 10 consecutive games, which ties the club record set in 1970.
And that's not all. Tony Gwynn went two for four, which improved his league leading average to .347. Mark Davis pitched the final 2 1/3 innings and picked up his 32nd save, which puts him in the National League lead.
And, San Francisco lost again, allowing the third-place Padres to move to within seven games of the Giants, the closest the Padres have been to first place since June 17.
Montreal pitchers arrived in San Diego with a 2.09 earned-run average in their last 56 innings, but the Padres weren't impressed. They scored three quick runs during a two-out third-inning rally when Clark hit his 19th home run of the season.
Garry Templeton started it with a singled to left. Gwynn moved him to second with a single to center, which ran Gwynn's hitting streak to 12 games.
Up stepped Clark, who was immediately brushed back by Gross. Clark watched one more ball go by, and then put Gross' third pitch into the left-field seats.
Clark's second three-run homer came in the fifth, also after Templeton and Gwynn had singled.
It was his third three-run homer against the Expos in two games. He also hit one in Montreal Aug. 20 during the Padres' 5-2 victory.
The Expos scored their first run in the top of the fourth. Benes walked leadoff batter Dave Martinez, got Tom Foley to ground to second but gave up a long double to Hubie Brooks, scoring Martinez from second.
Benes got out of another jam in the fifth, but the Expos pulled to within 3-2. With one out, Benes walked Mike Fitzgerald and Spike Owen. After Gross struck out, Dave Martinez lined a ball off Benes' leg. By the time Benes recovered, Martinez was standing on first and the bases were loaded.
Benes was examined by Padre trainers, threw a few warmup pitches and then walked Foley to force in a run. Hubie Brooks popped to Templeton to end the inning.
The Expos got one more in the sixth when Fitzgerald flied to left deep enough to allow Wallach to score from third. That left Andres Galarraga on first with two out and the Padres ahead, 6-3. Owen hit a sharp grounder into the hole between first and second, but Bip Roberts made a diving stop and threw out Owen.
Montreal picked up its final run in the seventh. Pinch-hitter Otis Nixon led off with a walk, stole second and went to third on Santiago's throwing error. He scored on Brooks' single to right.
Second baseman Roberto Alomar missed Monday night's game because of the flu. . . . Bip Roberts replaced Alomar in the lineup, making only his third start at second base this season.. . . Here's the rundown on Roberts, the Padres' most versatile player: In addition to his three starts at second, he has made 12 starts at shortstop, 15 at third base, 12 in left field, one in center field and 11 in right field.
The Padres won't know whether Bruce Hurst will make his scheduled start Saturday until later in the week. Hurst, suffering a groin injury, is scheduled to throw on the side Thursday. "We'll find out then how he is," pitching coach Pat Dobson said. . . . Outfielder Chris James didn't start Monday but said his bruised hand is feeling better. James was injured Saturday when pitcher Don Schulze slammed a car door on it. He is listed as day to day.
What do some seventh-year major leaguers look forward to? Finishing eight seasons in the majors, so they can get their Gold Card. The Gold Card is good for lifetime admission to any major league park for games other than playoff and World Series contests. "You can get in, but that doesn't guarantee you a seat," Tony Gwynn said. Gwynn said he was looking forward to July 19, when he is eligible for his Gold Card. He was recalled from Hawaii, the Padres' former triple-A club, on July 19, 1982. . . . Mark Grant's save Sunday against the Mets, his first as a Padre, was the club's 36th this season and the first that did not involve Mark Davis (31 saves) or Greg Harris (four).